Month: April 2015

“Ask the Developers” Thread Summary, Post #11

Here’s another update to the Exalted developers’ Q&A thread on RPG.net.

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
Q&A Summary #10


Wulfram:
I think when you’re dealing with just 100 people, many of whom have known each other for centuries, politics should be more personal. It should be about networks of friends and protégés and rivals and grudges, not parties.

John:
Two Factions may be a bit misleading, yes.

Coikzer:
One thing to consider is that there’s a marked difference between the 1e Gold Faction and the 2e Gold Faction. In 1e, the Gold Faction didn’t really exist as a coherent, organized thing until basically the Solars came back; Ayesha and her cronies were likely agitating before then, but they didn’t really have any power. The 2e version has Ayesha founding the Gold Faction as an actual entity in Sideeal politics centuries before the default campaign start, which among other things makes the fact that the 2e Gold Facton’s goals and methodology hadn’t evolved much beyond “Light a lot of fires and hope really hard that the Solars don’t go crazy this time” a lot less sympathetic.

I don’t think I would mind at all if 3e presented the Bronze/Gold divide as one that was largely academic until very recently and delves a lot more into politics between Conventions, Circles or even just individuals. I know this will sound like my usual Solar hate-on, but I’d like Sidereals to have a lot more depth than whether they’re on Team Solar Boo or Team Solar Yay.

John:
Remember, being Gold or Bronze is not a question of whether you are the Solar cheering section or not. There have been Bronze Faction members who see the Solars as having brought about the greatest Good Creation has ever seen, yet they still support the Bronze Faction, including its support of Wyld Hunts, because they know what the Solars became and have seen records of what they were doing. It is quite possible to be in awe of a Solar and yet capable of destroying one.

Eric:
For a historical example of factions that looks nothing like modern political parties (nor like the Bronze/Gold split, but whatevs): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chariot_racing


Lea:
The problem with Hellforged Wonders is they have a tendency to encourage the players to look at the demon NPC lists like a menu. We don’t want people’s first thoughts regarding Ligier to be “I want to murder him, not because I hate him, and indeed not because I care about him at all, but because I think it would be fun to cut people I do care about in half, using a blade made from his corpse.”

You can still have hellish artifacts, but the idea of an entirely separate class of artifacts with a separate set of rules for making them and a separate list of allowable powers is a bit much.

Lea:
I think the idea that there are occasional artifacts made from gods or demons or things will stick around. That’s a staple of the genre.


Wolfwood2:
What distinguishes a situation where you’d want to build an artifact to produce a particular one-off effect versus situations where you would want to do the same thing with a Sorcerous Working? Is there a lot of overlap?

I mean, to take this joke exchange seriously, would building Fenris’s leash be better modeled as an artifact or as sorcery?

John:
This is not a flip answer, because it’s one I push very strongly when there’s questions about “how to do something” when it is fairly creative like your example, but my response is always going to be: ask your Storyteller. Because in that instance, whatever is tonally correct and in line with your protagonist is how you need to play it.


Arian Dynas:
This realization then gives a few questions; Conan and Lovecraft both share one thing off the bat; Sorcery is terrifying, even when it’s benevolent; voices boom and crack the ground, eyes flash with sparks and reality shimmers like a heat haze, and yet, Second Edition managed to make Sorcery so mundane. Will the awe, wonder and fear return? Signs point to yes from what I’m seeing but I thought it best to ask.

Holden:
It was pretty mundane in 1e as well. 3e sorcery is not mundane. Remember how Dynasts tended to look askance at sorcerers, and how inviting one to a party took all the air out of the room? That is going to seem like a self-evident “duh” in EX3, rather than making you tilt your head and go “I guess they’re freaked out because they don’t understand Wood Dragon’s Claw? Eh.”

Arian Dynas:
Furthermore, sorcery comes from frightening places and plumbing secrets man was not meant to know in Conan and Lovecraft; what are these places in Creation? The gulf between the stars is not some unknown horror, but rather a benevolent and protective dome preventing the Wyld from pouring down on Creation in a destructive flood.

Holden:
Is it? How thoroughly have you explored those frigid, echoing gulfs, lit only by the distant flickering of fitful stars?

Sorcerers are basically a character type unto themselves in EX3, and it’s very difficult to have a sorcerer who isn’t overtly touched by the uncanny in EX3.

Coikzer:
So does that mean that becoming a sorcerer is a little more onerous than “Be Occult 3, bullshit to your GM about how you already passed the trials if they even give enough of a shit to think about it, buy one Charm” in 3e, then?

Holden:
That seems like a pretty rotten mindset to make a character with.

Lea:
Ex3 does not have sorcery based around the idea that, given how powerful it is, characters who have it should be penalized in some way. That’s just not a thing.

Wolfwood2:
Since the earlier discussion, I keep wondering what happens if a sorcerer reneges on their sacrifice. Like they give up their voice or swear to change their name or give up on love, and then a week later it’s like, “This is a pain in the ass. I’m giving up on giving up.” Is it like breaking an Eclipse oath, or is the universe powerless to punish you?

Lea:
Geoff has some comments to that effect. The choice has to be sincere in the moment for the universe to ping, but it can be reneged on later, and, in fact, there are a lot of sorcerers who just did Five Station speedruns.

Or, at least, that’s the way sorcerous initiation worked in previous editions!


Anaximander:
Well, then, lets go OFF the map! I know the Wyld is going to be more than a “lava lamp” with more diverse, semi-stable regions, which you probably don’t want to talk about yet, but what about good old islands of Creation? And new/interesting lost cities/Lunar hideouts/Sidereal listening posts?

John:
For now the spotlight is firmly fixed on Creation.


Yo! Master:
What magical materials are the new Exalted types (the ones we know of & the ones [redacted]) are normally associated with?

John:
Orichalcum, moonsilver, starmetal, jade…

Oh, and soulsteel.


Simon Mcglynn:
Getiman castes?

John:
They don’t have Castes. Could change, though!

Blaque:
We know that the Getimians have the yin/yang Essence, black and white animas, kung fu and a rebel bent. What else might we see visually work with them?
And stuff.

John:
Hybridized kung-fu and crazy anime fantasy outfits.

Huntress:
This is how our Storyteller has portrayed Getimians, I’m curious how accurate it is. … “They work in escher geometry, altering dimensions so that they can cross a room in a single stride, or tweak gravity to fix a foe in place. Fights against them are meant to be laggy, juddering and unsettling, with the normal sensory feedback for an opponent thrown off. ”

John:
This definitely fits.

Simon Mcglynn:
How powerful roughly are Getimans? Sidereal level?

John:
They are in the Sidereals’ ballpark.

kenichi-kun:
What’s the trigger for exaltation for Getimians? Like for Solars it’s an act ofovercoming adversity (I think) for Lunars it’s surviving agaainst great odds, for Limians coming back from death… What is it for Getimiens?

John:
Have to keep that secret for now. Sorry bud. 🙂

Overshee:
Are there as many (or should I say as few) active Getemians as Sidereals?

John:
Likely not.

sakii:
The Getimians were people that were screw by Fate rigth?
Does this means that the sids move some threads in the loom and now a merchant prince had always been a beggar all his life or that the guy being rich was against heaven agenda so they go and ruin his bussines?

John:
…Maybe!


PolkaNinja:
OK question:
I don’t “get” the idea behind Liminal Exalted.
Solars and Sidereals, and Lunars, and even Exigent I get, but what is the unifying theme for Liminals?

John:
The Liminal concept would be something like “corpse-amalgam created and given life to hunt creatures of darkness.”

PolkaNinja:
Thanks John. That’s a big help. I totaly understand the Claymore manga/anime comparison now.

John:
Oh yeah, Claymore had a bit of influence on them!

Gayo:
So we know Liminals are intended to be a bit like Promethean, and they seem to have a “monster hunter” vibe too. What we’ve heard about Getimians gives me the sense that a Getimian game has a bit of a modern spy/terrorism thriller feel, like the Bourne Identity or Homeland except with kung fu fights in Heaven. What kind of play experience/thematics are the undisclosed types aiming for?

John:
I can’t answer that right now, as all of them are “in the lab” and very dependent on how well some of the classic splats come out of development.

Anaximander:
The “creatures of darkness” part just struck me. So they don’t just hunt undead, but demons and raksha, too? Is their definition of “creature of darkness” the Unconquered Sun Approved List, or the Dark Mother’s?

John:
That would be tellingggggggggggggg

Anaximander:
If the Liminals have a Dark Mother, do they have a Dark Father? Or is the Mother a single-entity-of-indeterminate-but-obviously-consideral-power-creating-Exalted-for-mysterious-purposes?

John:
No father.


Wuse_Major:
Who would fit best as residents of Halloween Town? Lunars, Abyssals, Liminals, or Ghosts?

John:
Nightmare Before Christmas reminds me of the Fair Folk. (Don’t take this as a design direction. It’s not.)


Anu:
Have you thought about doing a book like NWoD: Dark Eras? I think it’d be interesting to have a book dedicated to different places and time periods covering the course of the Second Age, and the kickstarter was a lot of fun.

John:
I think Dark Eras is an amazing idea and I’m very optimistic about how it was put together and the amount of fan involvement in the Kickstarter. All I can say for now!


James Yakura:
Can you think of any concepts that would be invalid for an Exigent, but valid for another Exalt type?

Lea:
“Reincarnation of [specific Solar NPC from setting’s history],” maybe.

John:
I’m not sure I understand this question. Exigents cover an array of Exalt types.

selfcritical:
Basically about thematic or mechanical niches that might be excluded from Exigent capability/charmsets/themes b/c they’ve been set aside for the other splats

John:
That’s not how we’re approaching design in EX3. Exalt types are not classes from D&D.


Brian888:
Can you tell us anything about the new Exalt types in the Niobraran book?

John:
They do not* exist anymore.

*Vwehehehe


Anaximander:
Other than the Realm and the Seventh Legion, who are the most successful organized group of Dragon-Blooded in 3E Creation?

Blackwingedheaven:
Please say Forest Witches. Please say Forest Witches.

Vance:
“Organization” has never really been the Forest Witches’s thing.


nexus:
If you had to pick a single artist to do ALL the artwork for third edition, which one would it be?

Lea:
Someone who’s a giant jerk and who I hate, because that is really a tremendous amount of work and I wouldn’t want to inflict it on just one person. Srsly, there’s going to be so much art. So much.

nexus:
So I gather. I was hoping to get some hint of what the current developers vision of the setting is, what visual style fit it best in their opinion.

Lea:
Well, I was going to say Melissa Uran, but then I actually thought about what that would entail, and it turned into my first answer.

Holden:
No one person could hit all the style notes EX3 wants.


chaoticag:
You know, I was kinda thinking this, but, how does a god exert their will over something within their domain? Does a river god change the course of a river as though it was another limb? Exercise their essence? File bureaucratic paperwork? All of the above?

John:
For a god, using the jutsu of river winding, a flex of the arm, a thrust of the fist, a movement of Essence, and the filing of paperwork can all be the same thing. In a more literal sense, the papers are filed which allow him to use his power to move the river.

chaoticag:
Also, if a god was destroyed in the process of granting someone an exigence how capable would the exigent be in taking over that god’s purview?

John:
This is dependent on several factors. Was the purview important? Like fundamentally important, so you can’t have just any god take over? What are the implications of letting another spirit take over? Is his corruption of a sort that isn’t all that different from the god before, or is he going to put his vices all out on the table and cause his station to falter for interminable years? Is the downgrade something Heaven can live with or is this an office that must function to some degree? Most importantly, does your Exigent get along with the Sidereals?

sakii:
How is the Exigent a downgrade?? didnt the god kill himself to make someone better?

John:
I was talking about a hypothetical other spirit who could have the job.

SmilingBeast:
Pretty simple, really. A god just gave a good portion of their power – possibly all of it, including their life – in order to create a champion. A champion that can do things that the god can’t do, certainly, but a champion who is not a god, and can’t just pick up the slack left by the sacrifice involved in their creation.

At least, that’s how I see it.

John:
Yes. This is not the point I was making, but it’s accurate.

The point I was making is that Heaven is not froggy about giving Exalts office positions filled by spirits. If the Sidereals are desperate they’ll get a non-spirit (such as an Exigent) to try to do the job, but there is a significant difference in that Exalted are not actually spirits and do not actually use the Charms of their patrons, so typically cannot run their domains.

I mean, think about it. If you were a god and you did that you’d be creating your replacement


Brian888:
Apologies if this has been asked before, but how does the Realm tend to feel about Exigents? Does it default to “Wyld Hunt them in the face,” with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis? Does the Realm even KNOW about Exigents?

John:
This will be discussed in The Realm.


Bastet:
Last night I was musing about a goddess in my Sidereals game.

Flowing Copper is a goddess of copperhead snakes who has been trying to combat a myth that was started by one of her rivals in the Bureau of Nature, that their bite will kill someone by the time they have walked one hundred paces.

Now, I know gods in Exalted are not the product of product of consensus reality so no matter how popular the myth is she will not develop venom like that because people think her snakes are really dangerous.

However, where she to create an Exigent could they potentially possess charms that produce this Hundred Pace Venom?

John:
Interesting question. Mythology has a compelling flex in that it allows you to make literally real what was only figurative. If you think the myth of the Hundred Pace Venom technique is something the Exigent must develop to reconcile this myth with reality, or that the goddess ingrains it in her Chosen to teach her enemies a lesson or punish her followers for this false belief, then absolutely she can have it.


Jagermech:
Is Sorcery usable in combat? Kinda like swapping into different Martial Arts stances, could you set up an attack that ended in something like Death of Obsidian Butterflies? Or is Sorcery a peripheral/pre-buff combat thing? Or neither?

John:
I am okay with answering this question because I can be non-specific and because I think it’s been a concern of the community for many years now.

Yes, you can definitely use sorcery in combat, and you can do it without having to choose between being an Exalt and being a sorcerer.


kenichi-kun:
To forge an artifact, do we need to have Sorcery, or can it be accomplished “only” with Craft Charms? Or does that fall more into a narrative act rather than a purely mechanical one aka talk with your Storyteller on how to accomplish it?

Vance:
You won’t need sorcery to forge a daiklave. The greatest wonders of the First Age may be a different story.


danelsan:
How advanced is math in Creation in the current Age? For instance, can I expect (what passes for) a scholar in a random small village to be familiar with negative numbers?

John:
Random small village in the Realm-occupied states of the Threshold? It’s possible.

Small village in shanty pirate town? Possible but your chances are decreasing as his learning is likely to be more specialized.

Scholar in the village of the Elk Tribe? Highly unlikely, as he needs to know more about winter roots, weather patterns, dealing with diseases…


PolkaNinja:
OK here’s an answerable question:
I did not kickstart Ex3rdEd.
What is it going to cost me (aprox) to get:
1) just the PDF
2) PDF + printed edtion (I’m assuming DTRPG + POD option, yes?)

John:
I don’t set the prices, friend. 🙂


kenichi-kun:
What kind of Evocations can Starmetal give? Any non-mechanical examples? I’m a bit stumped on that one

Will the unrevealed Exalted have affinity for any kind of MM? Wanna spoil?

Which demons will be in the core? I assume Blood Apes for certain, though curious which else will be there.

Will there be any merits that are specific to Solar Exalted? Perhaps Caste-gated merits?

John:
Still working out starmetal’s associations. I will have more word on this soon.

New Exalts may use some new materials. We’ll see.

There are some neat player backed demons. Also, the Quarter Prince.

Not so sure about Caste merits, but splat specific merits are a yes.


kenichi-kun:
Will there be any other signature Exigent besides Jana?

Vance:
Yep.


ADamiani:
Do any of the Incarna have Exigents?

Vance:
No. The Incarnae’s power in creating the Exalted far surpasses that of a lesser god drawing on the Exigence. They’ve already created their Chosen, and couldn’t create them any other way.

(unless plot)


Tyrnis:
So, my question to the devs:

According to today’s Monday Meeting notes, the fiction anthology will be going out to backers very soon, which I’m quite looking forward to. What teasers can you give us about the stories we’ll see in the anthology, and will it be a good source of inspiration for game ideas, or a great source of inspiration for them? 🙂

John:
There are some tremendously talented writers on that book, I think you will love it. Can’t give out spoilers, sorry–not really my project to spoil.


Kahbiel:
Ooh, I suddenly have a (what I hope to be) legitimat/non-mechanical question. Can I grant a mortal follower a mote pool / “enlightenment” as a Sorcerous Project? Would you allow it in your game as a ST?

Sidebar, I’m aware that once a mortal gains access to essence they cease to be mortal, so I suppose my question is more can I do a Sorcerous Project to make a chosen mortal something else, to establish a legacy of non-mortals to fulfill some 1, 000 or 10, 000 year goal my character has in mind?

John:
There’s no sorcerous project that comes of a number of dice rolls and payouts. Everything implausible is made plausible by how hard your character is willing to fight for it, reach for it, will it and build it into existence. There are mechanical rails for this, but no actual way to tell whether what you do will be possible. It really depends on your Storyteller and your creativity and drive to do things. I also wouldn’t look at sorcerous workings alone as the be-all, end-all of your metaphysical needs. My favorite use for sorcerous workings is to get the ball moving on things that would otherwise be impossible to support, things which then could be supported outside the sorcery system. This slots in much better with the mechanics of the game and the way they compliment the story.

I.e. I can’t make a ruling on what the dice, your Storyteller, and your creativity will allow.

Kahbiel:
That sounds incredibly more free form and creativity driven than just about anything else I’ve read in an Exalted book. Not a free form spell system, but a free form magic system that allows characters to do diverse and powerful things while still (mostly/sort of/in a ST system sort of way) keeping it balanced.

Awesome, looking forward to it.

John:
I think it’d be fair to call sorcerous workings the most open-ended part of 3rd Edition’s systems. I think you’ll like what you see. ^_^


rikalous:
Quibble: Single Point Shining Into the Void has been described as an iaijutsu style in a couple places, so you could probably have an Even Blade style focused on Azure Crane’s sword-and-sheath shenanigans or some such.

John:
SPSV has Charms that do reflect iai-style techniques, but I don’t consider it an iajutsu style. Wind-Cutting Blade Style is definitely going to fill that bill.


Scutarii:
I have a question about Charms.

This might be a ‘how long is a piece of string’ kind of thing but what the hey, let’s get ballpark estimates.

How many Charms would you expect a character to need to take to reach the ‘counted among the greatest Exalts in the world at thing X’?

John:
This is a very difficult question to answer. The Exalted represent an element where “no real measure” can be established.


Icarus1138:
Will there be any alterations to the Dragon Kings in 3rd Edition? Will they be mentioned in the corebook? Are they still a thing, even?

John:
We plan to cover them eventually. 🙂


Dulahan:
What Music Genre (Or even better, band/composer!) would you say each type of Exalt is?

John:
Fun question, and difficult to answer. I think my answers would be strange and off-putting, since I like a lot of anime and video game composers, music which tends to conjure very specific video games and anime in the memory. 🙂

Vance:
My take:

Solars—hip hop or classical symphonies

Lunars—basically just Kate Bush

Sidereals—instrumental jazz

Abyssals—depressing instrumentals like Anoice or Bohren and Der Club der Gore

Infernals—parts of the Evangelion soundtrack, the Mountain Goats, Tom Waits

Alchemicals—industrial stuff that sounds all clangy and metallic

Liminals—blues

John:
I was thinking Yoko Kanno for Sidereals, looks like we hit on the same feeling.


Anu:
Can you tell us anything new about the Marukani Alliance, horses, or riding?

John:
Fighting mounted is a big advantage. Luckily there are dismounting tactics.

The Marukani haven’t gotten much action yet in EX3. Hope to change that.


Nicias:
Is there a canon answer for what created the Dreaming Sea, or is that left unsettled?

John:
There may or may not be. But the far eastern end of the Dreaming Sea had a closed shore once, before
Creation fell off into the Wyld during the Fair Folk crusade. The sea empties right off into the Wyld, so there are occasionally really strange things in the water.


Wuse_Major:
Can you give us a list of the nations and locations that will be getting longish blurbs in the Core, as opposed to one word mentions? Assuming that’s a thing the Core even does anyway?

John:
No list, but there are old and new ones. Dajaz and Wu-Jian are amazing. Great Forks and Sijan have been revitalized by new concepts. You will see some of the locations expanded later in the edition as well, so the blurbs in the core are just a taste.


Prometheus878:
Is the Denzik city-ship still a flotilla of ships linked together? Or is it now some humongous ship the size of a city? (I know which answer I prefer.)

How common (relatively speaking) are manses and demesnes?

Are there going to be prominent Martial Arts societies other than the Immaculate Order?

How many new nations are you featuring in the Core (no names, just a number)? How many of them are satrapies? (There needs to be a whole lot more cool satrapies like An-Teng.)

John:
1) Denzik City-Ship is the Denzik City-Ship 😀

3) Yes. Not necessarily in the core.


Korhal_IV:
Minton mentioned a place called Prasad. Can we learn anything about Prasad?

John:
Prasad is a strange mix of backwater, opulence, and splendor.


Zeea:
I know it’s a bit early, but can you tell us anything about how the Great Curse might affect Dragon-Blooded in 3e? Is it still going to be “Dragon-Blooded tend to act on elemental impulses when they run out of Willpower,” or is it going to be more prominent or have a different triggering event?

John:
We’re still varying a bit on mechanics, but Essence possession is a big deal in EX3, and Dragon-Blooded train extensively to master their wild, unbound animas.


notanautomaton:
How common are sorcerers? In the fiction anthology there’s an academy for them outside the realm, so does this indicate that there are other academies?

John:
Sorcerers are not common in the Age of Sorrows, relatively speaking.


Rand Brittain:
Could you tell us about some of your plans for spicing up a few of the Great Houses?

John:
Yes. I need a little time to compose this post, so I will set this here to remind myself. I hope mods don’t object to that.

While working on the outline, we wrote over 25,000 words on the Great Houses alone, so there is a lot to say.

The main thing to point out is that we have taken the core “idea” of each House and opened it up into a wider and more nuanced portrayal. 1e established a premise for each House, but as the edition rolled onward it never really moved far from that base. Everything new that was written about the House was referential to and an expansion of that base information, with little innovation. Some of the Houses suffered for this, becoming rather extreme parodies of their own thesis.

When cleaning up a Great House we kept the strongest elements of the House’s history and personality and maintained those elements strongly, and threw out almost everything else. We asked ourselves, “how do we make this House a commentary on the Aspect it represents?” and began to expand and contradict the thesis material in interesting ways.

One thing we did was we got rid of all the NPCs that weren’t doing much or getting anything done. We gave almost every Great House a strong contender for the Scarlet Throne. We seeded the Great Houses with reasons to fight one another. Given time and perhaps Kickstarter backing, we’re going to write about events leading up to the Realm Civil War, and we’re even going to signpost where we know some of the major battles must occur. We’re not going to handle the war as an “in-setting” event, but rather as something the players can prevent or cause. Overall, it will be used as a teaching tool, both to point out important places on the Blessed Isle where Dragon-Blooded players might want to be running games, and how to think about those places in terms of overall importance. It also can teach a lot about how to run Dragon-Blooded politics in the current climate of war. The conflicts between the Great Houses were very neutral and bloodless in past editions. In Third Edition they kill each other and we plan to show you how and encourage you to take part, or try to prevent it from happening.

We did a lot of radical changes to certain Houses because their original thesis statements weren’t as strong. Sesus is one of these Houses. It was already a fairly popular House due to having a couple prominently featured NPCs. We gave them a power structure in Chanos and Ventus Prefectures to express the themes of light and darkness the Sesus now espouse.

The Cynis also got a major overhaul. We dropped the three sisters with the strange names and gave them a stronger leadership. We didn’t look at their trade in slaves and settle on characterizing them as “dubiously forward” whoremongers. We expanded their trade into a trade in secrets. They might not be the strongest Great House, but they know the secrets of a lot of powerful Dynasts. They have a tremendous spy network. They have, in some very subtle ways, subverted House Sesus through marriage. There’s a lot more to say about them, but I want to keep the strongest ideas secret.

The Great Houses are exploding with new life in EX3.

kenichi-kun:
That sounds great! Will there be bits of lore that will be in the Realm book but not in What Fire Has Wrought, or vice-versa, that pertains to the Great Houses?

I’ll be honest, one of the weirdest houses for me was Tepet (the Air aspected miliary house that was devastated by the Bull) because Air did not seem to match itself well to being military. I am looking forward whether that was a bit reconciled in some ways.

John:
Melaism stresses embodiment of the warrior and the upright soldier. It is an emulation of martial readiness and perfection. Being Aspects of Air, it makes perfect sense for them. If you mean that Air’s Ability spread didn’t match up very well, it’s better if it doesn’t. Religious doctrine doesn’t have to match up to reality, or be justified in the mechanics, and sometimes it’s better if it isn’t.

Oh, and yes. The Realm book hinges on the Great Houses, which will be discussed there. They are also getting prestige writeups in What Fire Has Wrought.

John:
The fact that the Empress took a powerful resource from the mighty House Peleps to make House V’neef doesn’t say one way or another whether V’neef was worthy to found a Great House. And yes, the Empress also quelled a lot of tensions with the Outcaste population by incorporating them into House V’neef, legitimizing them. Though it’s not clear in past editions, this is why you have that 300 year old V’neef and those vineyards older than V’neef herself.

We think V’neef earned House V’neef, for what it’s worth.

SmilingBeast:
Looking forward to finding out what it is about the V’Neef that makes them worthy and interesting protagonists, then, because the positive and fun traits I thought they had just got cited as incorrect.

John:
I understand your concern, but can we take one step back from that and look at the Great Houses as a whole for a moment? The Great Houses serve a tremendous purpose in giving players a diverse number of character origins and backgrounds, rivals and enemies, and so on. But they also serve some other agendas to the design, like showing the Realm as a dynamic, living empire, not one in stasis. One of the ways it does this is by showing Great Houses in different stages of life. House V’neef shows how and why a Great House gets formed, and how the formation of a new Great House can threaten current Houses. The Empress took power from the mighty Peleps to keep them from getting bigger and more powerful than she needed to be—which is a reflection of her entire way of balancing the Houses against one another.

You also have the Tepets, who are an example of a House in decline, the Nellens, a House which is threatened, and the Iselsi, a House which has been destroyed. These too show the Realm as a dynamic thing.

Calde:
That’s a succinct way of putting it.

I see her as the “self-made” woman who turned the million her mom invested in her into a hundred million, and thus got to be CEO of her mom’s new company. Hardly anyone could do that… but hardly anyone gets to try either.

John:
Sure. The thing to remember is that the navy belongs to the Empress, not House Peleps. The water it floats on is her water, and the ports it docks at are her ports, and the lands on which House Peleps live are her lands. The Empress’s world is not at all one of fairness, it is about keeping her strongest rivals weak.

Perhaps V’neef did not earn her Great House. What’s there to say that Peleps earned hers? All of them, however, agree that the Empress earned the right to rule Creation when she climbed aboard Creation’s biggest gun and saved them all from the Fair Folk.

SmilingBeast:
I thought I explained this. In the post you’re quoting. I’m not against V’Neef being the beneficiary of Imperial favor. I’m against “beneficiary of Imperial favor” being most of their identity. It’s entirely possible that Calde was cherry-picking and left out all the cool stuff about the V’Neef being awesome adventurer-trader entrepreneurs, but based on the quotes provided, it looks very much like their identity is based on what they were given by the Empress instead of who they are, what they’ve achieved.

Calde claimed that “the V’neef theme is to have been the rising star, aloft on the back of the Scarlet Empress’ favor, only to suddenly find themselves bereft of the major protection that normally shields a young Great House from being shredded by the others,” and then provided a lot of supporting quotes. That’s a situation, not an identity. I thought I knew their identity. If their identity actually is what I thought it was, and Calde just gave me the wrong quotes, please, tell me where to find the good stuff as soon as I can get back to my books on Tuesday.

John:
It may be that the founding of House V’neef was an unjust act, that they were illegitimate and House Peleps was carved up unfairly to become House V’neef, so now the Peleps’ have a legitimate problem. That still doesn’t affect the protagonist view of V’neef, in a society where you rise to Great House status or linger in obscurity, or more likely become the pawn or prey of some bigger and more powerful person or political group. There’s nothing to suggest V’neef had any choice in how her House was formed, or when. She is only complicit in the Empress’s cruelties by being a victim of the entire system, and by living in that system and surviving in that system. Survival points at her protagonism beside the dirty facts.

The point is, if the House origins were problematic, that’s good for you! If you are playing a young scion of V’neef you have a huge problem, in that one of the mightiest Great Houses is gunning for you. Your House is the underdog, and it must survive by its wits, social acumen, tactical skill and genius use of resources. It is a problem you have inherited through no fault of your own, but now you must deal with it, and the facts of the origin of V’neef’s House really do not matter when your trireme is out on open water and five Peleps ships suddenly appear and surround you. The problems of the two Houses are now your problems to solve. How will you solve them? If you stop to think “well we’re totally the bad guys because we let the Empress give us their stuff” they will be happy to use you against your House to kill everyone you love and take back the stuff that “belongs to them” but was never really theirs in the first place.

And no, this is not necessarily a canon representation of either House, but just a stressing of how the dynamism of historic grudges work, and what exactly the Empress’s system was set up to do. It was set up to do that.

SmilingBeast:
Again, all stuff I understand and appreciate… but that’s the situation they’re in. What’s their identity?

John:
I’m not intentionally trying to dodge your question, here. I am trying to get across that your character has a huge amount of “say” in the personality of House V’neef. That isn’t to say we aren’t going to give the houses strong personality profiles. But I’d like to keep those obscured for now for spoiler reasons. I’m not trying to beat this drum to annoy you, I just want to make it clear that the situation they’re in is intended to inform PC generation, and it is ultimately the PCs who get to settle the fate of House V’neef and how it is perceived. We’re setting up the Realm balanced on a knife edge, on the brink of war. We are going to signpost the way to the “bad ending” which involves the death of many heroes and the fall of Houses, and empower the heroes to change the way the story ends. (Or make it happen. 🙂

I hope this helps make my previous posts more useful to you.

SmilingBeast:
BTW, I really hope that, if V’Neef doesn’t end up the repository of firebrands and malcontents that the Empress tried to subvert to her own ends, the way we’ve been discussing on the last few pages, that that’s a canon thing somewhere, because it’s awesome and adds so much depth to the Realm.

John:
There are quite a lot of malcontents gathering in Faxai, as we speak. 🙂


Kalisara:
Is the Dreaming Sea isolated as its own little gamespace, or connected to the surrounding area? If the latter, is it Realm-dominated, part of the Scavenger Lands, independent, a mixture, something else altogether?

John:
That’s somewhat complicated. Anything I say about the Dreaming Sea is obviously subject to change, but: the Dreaming Sea is informed by the surrounding Creation, but you could very accurately refer to it as its own distinct region. The Realm does not have a strong presence in the region and neither does Lookshy. It represents new growth and some very large plot hooks not tied directly to the Realm / Scavenger Lands conflicts.

Mostly what I want you to know is that the Dreaming Sea is old. I know that sounds bizarre, since all of Creation is the same age, but you will find more atavistic marks of the Makers and of the Ancients there. It is very much an exposition on pulp fantasy, heavily inspired by the ancient-yet-evolving feeling of the world Robert E. Howard painted in Conan. You will see some things there you won’t see anywhere else. One such place is Distoch, on the far shores of the Dreaming Sea, home of a race of gigantes who feast on flesh and use souls in their housecraft. Or the isle of the Backbenders. It is a dangerous region, full of old magic and terrifying throwbacks. But it’s also a place of mystery, power, intrigue, and beauty all its own. We are very excited to write about it.

Kalisara:
What are some wild, crazy and potentially profitable adventures that young Dynasts touring the Threshold could have?

John:
War tourism is a big thing that Dynasts do, getting involved in foreign wars for fun, profit, military and political experience. The Empress’s system is actually set up to reward Houses that engage in more effective tax-farming and by going on vacations to embattled places young Dragons could cut their teeth on the realities of government without fucking up Mom’s tribute states.

Many Dragon-Blooded, both Outcaste and Dynast, are flocking to Faxai-on-the-Caul to engage in a crusade against the Lunar Exalted there.


Arian Dynas:
Also I got a question for you guys; I got an off the cuff kind of Heroic Mortals game being used to whet my players appetites, and I got a lady who wants to play a Fair Folk among mortals. I’ve already heard how their kinds of things are more like OWoD disciplines, but what can you tell me setting-wise about Fair Folk now?

What is still relevant from old editions? Are Graces still a thing? I think you guys also mentioned how not all Fair Folk are Raksha? And I’ve also heard how the Euro-Fae stuff is also being phased out and wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place?

John:
Indeed, not all Fair Folk are raksha. While the Fair Folk are branching out, they are going to follow an overall thesis of “glorious terror,” excluding the odd hobgoblin or patchman.


Daerim:
I wonder how important birth order is in the Realm. With the founders and current House heads living as long as they do (between being Dragon-Blooded, longevity drugs, artifacts and whatever else could extend lifespan), I’m not sure inheritance is as important to the Dynasty as it would be in our world.

They could very well be sending first sons/daughters out into the world to spend their youthful idealism, indoctrinate them into the rapacious dogma and maybe get themselves killed by a Lunar if they’re particularly bothersome.

John:
Birth order matters far less than whether or not your son or daughter breathes Second Breath.


Tribute:
Can you tell us anything about the Kingdom of Ysyr? A place ruled by sorcerers has the potential to be so very cool! Can you tell us if the sorcery is hereditary, or if whoever is lucky enough to be able to learn sorcery can rise to rule?

John:
I can’t talk about it right now. Ysyr is a very Moorcockian idea. Take from that what you will.


Anu:
We know (or at least, I think we know) that the Realm and the Guild both send forces to the Caul to wage war on the Lunars, but how often do random people show up at the Caul to join up with the Lunars?

John:
Nobody who goes to the Caul to fight for the Lunars is random. It takes a pretty extreme individual.


You can find the next compilation here:
Q&A Summary #12