“Ask the Developers” Thread Summary, Post #13

Here’s more summaries from the Exalted developers’ Q&A threads on RPG.net, from the end of the second thread to the beginning of the third thread.

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
Q&A Summary #11
Q&A Summary #12


Holden:
Brawl is not MA. Archery is not Thrown. Divisions are created to give different gameplay styles and to support particular character styles.

Brawl is astonishingly stronk, in the hands of a Solar.

Martial Arts are also astonishingly stronk.

Pick the thing that fits your character. The game will have your back and you will have fun.

HoratioAtTheBridge:
They mentioned that it’s not Brawl because watching a bunch of Jeet Kun Do experts sprawl /looks/ more like a bunch of Kung Fu experts fight

John:
I am going to assume you are referring to somebody else here, because this isn’t the reasoning we gave, at all.

Jeet Kune Do is subject to the martial arts Bruce Lee “rejected” which makes it a martial art absolutely. In his very own book which I have read, Bruce Lee describes the very European fencing techniques that went into creating his approach. His ability to step away from Wing Chun is based on his absolute knowledge of Wing Chun. It is a martial art because it is subject to martial arts.

You can certainly, absolutely and 100% play a martial arts guy who throws that all away and becomes a brawler using Brawl. You can also play a “Greco-Roman” style grappler or a Turkish oil wrestler and represent all of that with Brawl. Nothing textually stops this from happening, and Brawl absolutely recommends itself to grapple concepts, dojo or no dojo.

But Brawl explicitly does not require any formal systemized training. It does not exclude it, nor does it preclude it, but it isn’t required. It’s for the pulp hero who is just tough, courageous, talented, and learned in the school of hard knocks. Ie, a literary tradition that informed Exalted, as opposed to a modern formulation of all martial arts as varying forms of science. You can play it that way, but it’s not a proscription against the character who is just tough, mean, and skilled as a natural thing. A myth-hero who didn’t actually have to go level up in sensei’s dojo.

Daerim:
And honestly, if the book says that Brawl is nothing more than highly effective flailing about, then screw that. It’s wrong, because that’s dumb.

John:
First of all, it doesn’t. But this is also an ascription of your bias against something in literature that makes perfect sense and pre-exists the modern conception of every combat system in the world as a martial art. The modern conception was engineered to appeal to the bias of the enlightened guy using science to wrest order out of chaos and light out of darkness mentality, where whatever isn’t science, be it spiritual or religious is somehow barbaric or stupid. It’s all wank if you ask me, I mean, yeah, every formalized system is a martial art—so what? Exalted doesn’t care about that. It has its own definitions, literary ones, and they work fine. Exalted, a game rife with spirits, gods, and mortal divinities, actually depends on something other than science for its logic, waddyaknow?

We’d rather develop a game where martial arts and brawl help you tell stories about your characters, rather than a game where you are telling stories about martial arts and brawl. You can certainly do that if that’s where your funsies are, and I have been thrilled by similar stories (IE Rurouni Kenshin) but you would have a frightening bugbear of a time introducing Himura Kenshin perfectly into Exalted, any edition. And why is that? Really think hard about it, and if your answer is “well the martial arts system was balls” then don’t even bother replying because you missed the Grand Canyon sized point somewhere.

Holden:
All of the Charm trees in Exalted 3rd edition are particular things.

This, necessarily and definitionally, means that they are not other things. In particular, they tend not to be everything.

That is to say, there is a certain style, and mechanical/gameplay logic, to Solar Brawl. This is different than Snake style, or Tiger style, and it’s sure as hell different from Single Point Shining Into the Void (which is, itself, quite different from Solar Melee).

Notice that I do not say ‘weaker than’ or ‘stronger than,’ just ‘different.’

Brawl is a fairly broad formulation, but it’s still a particular formulation. Martial Arts lets us give you more narrow or specific particular formulations. It lets us specifically and in detail render something like kalaripayattu, or muay thai, or iaido, or capoeira, or tiger style, rather than making you fit that imperfectly into a broader framework.

The downside, of course, is that we can’t publish everything anyone might ever want, but if you want to be a strikey-hands fwipp fwipp snake kung fu guy, that’s pretty great for you, because Brawl has a particular style and logic to it and it doesn’t look very much like strikey-hands fwipp fwipp kung fu. Its something else! (It is not “nothing else” or “everything else.”) Meanwhile, Snake style’s got you covered.

Beatrix:
While the desire to understand things by relating them to other things is normal, it doesn’t make sense to try and jam several different narrative forms of fighting into a completely different narrative of fighting. The desire to perfectly map a fictional character from whatever onto Exalted demeans both the original and Exalted, because it ignores all the crunchy awesomeness of the story, and the set up of the game, and aims for boring repetition. I like fanfic as much as the next person but seriously “I wanna play Tony Jaa” is not too far from rolling up Drizzt and Wolverine and wondering why the table rolls their eyes y’know?

Brawl is what it is and if it fits use it.

Like, it’s a critical fail of imagination to go ‘huuuuuuuuuuuu flailing haaaaaaaaaaands’ when confronted by Brawl because I can sure as shit, off the top of my head, come at HTH with four very different character concepts even though mechanically they’re the same. Spidermonkeystreeturchin throws herself at her foes fists first with all the rage of the streets behind her and her faith as her shield, and not a small amount of suicidal ‘I don’t care’. Marquess of Queensbury used to be a fop but once he took his Second Breath it turns out faith and essence makes the uppercut pretty damn special so he fights the way he lived. Tavern Brawly McPunchalot don’t care, she’s just swinging because that’s the only time she really feels the presence of her faith in a way she can understand. And Mama Bear waits until it’s time then takes down her foes with a carefully hoarded furious protection because she isn’t risking anything until she knows she’s going to win.

Holden:
Yes, exactly. We don’t at all conflate what the mechanics say with how clever a player can be when describing a stunt or roleplaying. A brawler can lock on a perfect triangle choke or kimura lock without actually knowing anything like jiu jutsu. A brawler can be a product of violent systemized combat society or simply someone who is cut from no certain cloth, an original. It is ultimately the character that’s important, and to fixate on whether or not it fits modern dogma is to spit on the character at hand.

LeviathanBound:
Wait… maybe I missed something here… but why exactly can’t you do Himura Kenshin in Exalted?

John:
Read carefully: I said you can’t introduce him perfectly.

Lea:
Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu. What would it be, assuming you don’t just want to declare that it’s Solar Charms?

LeviathanBound:
In Second Edition I’d have said that Melee 5 (Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu 3) with some good stunting works just fine. I don’t know anything about the mechanics of 3rd Edition, so I can’t say what would work in that system.

Lea:
Well, in the fiction, Hiten Mitsurugi-rye is specifically a martial system from ancient nightmare, which bestows upon its students superhuman strength and speed, now kept alive by a single master who does not want to pass it on to anyone else, because his experience wielding it as a butcher of men has left him weary of the futility of all violence, even exceptionally competent violence, no matter how well-intentioned… and that master’s single student, Himura Kenshin the Battousai, who wielded it in the hope of creating a better world and then swore off killing when he learned the toll wielding it would take on his soul.

That’s not really three specialty dice.

You can certainly make a character strongly inspired by Himura Kenshin, but 1e and 2e will have difficulty letting you play a character whose lethality comes from his position of the last scion of a specifically lethal school of swordsmanship that is probably best left to die.

John:
This, and that there’s roughly 300 other dudes who can use the same Athletics and Melee Charms with differing weapons to the same effect. The entire idea of Hiten Mitsurugi falls apart if you say it can also be done with a spear, an axe, a hammer, etc. I am not trying to be snarky when I say that it’s pretty hugely obvious why you can’t just drop Kenshin perfectly into Exalted.

The point is that Exalted resists the interpretations of Messrs Watsuki, Kubo, Sittiaumponpan, Lee, and many others, without actually discarding any of them. You can absolutely “do” a Kenshin-like Solar. Exalted Martial Arts are often crazy supernatural secret techniques of godlike masters, like Hiten Mitsurugi. You can stunt Heaven Thunder Hammer like one inch punch. Trying to cram Exalted into the logic of something that is not Exalted produces problems, though, because it was meant to include many distinct things which are often exclusive of one another.

Holden:
That’s leaving aside the incredible can of worms for ANY RPG that is “a school of martial arts so deadly and powerful that all other styles are like chaff before it,” of course.

John:
Which is indeed the main problem I was pointing out when I said that Exalted uses Martial Arts and Brawl to tell stories about your characters, rather than your characters to tell stories about Martial Arts and Brawl. Exalted is not built to tell that story (Kenshin) that way. Kenshin is ultimately a story about the greatest kenjutsu style ever created. You can tell stories like that in Exalted, but not exactly like that.

John:
Some people think I should design the game to make it 100% accurate to something like Hiten Mitsurugi Style, discarding everything else to do so, and then act like I’m a goof when i refuse, like I don’t get it. Actually I understand it very well, but I’m not running the Kenshin RPG. Exalted takes from a variety of rich sources that enable many different, interesting interpretations. Don’t expect me to bow to pressure to conform the entire game to some narrow view based on an idea pulled from some anime. I can point to places on the map where there’s armies who look a lot like hoplites, and Realm legionaries fight with spears and brawl with rival companies when they’re in coin and in cups, and wu-xia is awesome and prevalent in Creation until it isn’t, and if you don’t believe me just ask all those shaolin monks who didn’t single-handedly stop all those real-life invasions by barbarians using what Exalted would interpret as Brawl and Melee.

Daerim:
I would argue that a Martial Arts tree would be a poor choice to represent Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu in Exalted, due to the widely varying nature of its component parts (speed and athleticism, awareness, longevity, sword techniques, affect on the practitioner’s body and perhaps mind). In 3e, I would actually point towards an inheritable exigence (with Athletics, Awareness, Dodge, Melee and perhaps Resistance and Investigation Charms) as a good way to represent it. Training begins to shift the exigence from master to student, which is finalized by the student killing the master to inherit the exigence, name and panoply. Kenshin and Seijuro being a PC-driven inheritance error.

That said, Kenshin’s character archetype is easily expressed with a Dawn invested in the above referenced Abilities. It isn’t perfect, but nothing will be.

John:
You can absolutely do it either way and have a lot of fun doing so, and both methods allow people to tell other, different (potentially exclusive) stories.

The point is, we could make it work exactly like Kenshin, but we’d have to twist and exclude a lot of things to get there.

It is fundamentally the players’ job to do what you just did.

SmilingBeast:
Because what the devs have in mind when they create things is important.

They came in and broadened the Brawl concept a lot from the impression they gave before. It’s good now. Before that, the ideas as they presented them and we understood them here left a lot of simple and awesome concepts unnecessarily orphaned through a specifically over-narrow interpretation.

It’s one thing to think I know how best to do various unarmed fighter in Exalted. It’s another to think I’d have to fight the developers’ vision in order to do so.

John:
Explain how we presented a narrow interpretation that orphaned concepts? Because saying “nawp” when someone demands Brawl to be JKD—which would orphan a lot of concepts—doesn’t actually preclude JKD being otherwise represented.

SmilingBeast:
You drew a distinction between Brawl – presumably distinct from Martial Arts because of the esoteric philosophies and traditions involved – and Jeet Kun Do, which is a martial art built upon rejecting those things and just getting better at fighting by working out what works best in a fight. That looks like an extremely fine point, and when you cut a point that fine, it’s probably significant.

At the same time, you described Brawl as being specifically for guys like Indiana Jones, and defined it as being naturally talented at fighting.

Taken together, as they’re in the same post on the same topic, this appears to add up to the conclusion that Brawl is differentiated from Martial Arts by the idea that Brawl is natural talent and Martial Arts involves structured training.

Apparently, that wasn’t what you meant, because you came back and said so later, but that being the case, I’m really not sure where you were going with that post.

John:
I don’t think that orphans any concepts. In that very post, I’m saying: use Martial Arts for that concept.

Brawl doesn’t require systemized training, but you can imagine it that way without a problem.

The thing not being said here, which is clear to me but I guess not clear to certain others, is that when I talk about the scientific formulation of martial arts, that includes Jeet Kune Do. Exalted doesn’t actually agree with Bruce Lee that there is some form of “better” martial arts to be had by getting rid of the spiritualism and just getting down to the science. Just starting with the fact that most of the major styles in Exalted are both extremely spiritual and would also allow a Chosen practitioner to decimate mortal masters (such as Bruce Lee) in a fight. Which seems kind of like a luxurious argument, I know, seeing as we’re now comparing real people to fictional ones, but it’s the comparison being shoved down our throats by this argument. JKD doesn’t actually make sense in Exalted, which is why I brought up Hiten Mitsurugi. You can make it make sense, but the game isn’t actually made up to do that.

Exalted sides with the mythical Bruce Lee, who goes into the dojo and beats up twenty guys in The Chinese Connection. If you want to do that scene holistically you can write a “JKD of Bruce Lee” style easily. In reality, if Bruce Lee walks into a Japanese dojo and there’s even a single guy there who knows jiu jutsu, Bruce Lee is carried out in a body bag. Fortunately for you, Exalted is not an ultra realistic scientific fighting game, because if it was, grappling would be the #1 to start and finish every fight, it would be the first and best tactic of them all. We deliberately chose not to write an ultra scientific treatise on modern fighting because it would eliminate many fun concepts and narrow the game down to something out of tone and unmythical. Grappling is still extremely scary but it doesn’t parse the way it does in real life, where a whole load of guys named Gracie win UFC titles with jiu jutsu, and most champion shootfighters are extremely grapple based. Meanwhile, I don’t think there’s ever been a single MMA champion who was a pure JKD fighter. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!

The point is, it’s not as important as you think it is, either in real life or Exalted, and Exalted wasn’t built to bow to that one single idea at the expense of all the others.

Jeet Kune Do is absolutely a martial art though. If you walk into a JKD studio they teach you the same kicks and punches you learn everywhere else.


Tyrnis:
Off the subject of brawl and martial arts, you’ve told us that Exalted respire motes comparatively slowly out of combat (much like they have in previous editions), or more quickly while in combat, and you’ve also told us that sorcery draws on the essence of Creation around the sorcerer, as opposed to his personal essence pool. If the questions aren’t too mechanics oriented, can sorcery draw on the essence of the Underworld as readily as that of Creation, or is it more difficult to use there? And for the (non-Abyssal) Exalted, is mote respiration still reduced or eliminated while in the Underworld, and does that apply to both types of respiration?

John:
Essence accumulation is absolutely pointed out in various ways through sorcery mechanics and will be further illustrated by how and where Abyssals can gain motes. There are many different forms of Essence with different properties and behaviors.


will2goforth:
First Uhlume was the Lord of Death from Death’s Master. The two biggest ones would be how easy it would be to make a god with a similar purview assuming one doesn’t exist already and how a god who’s purview was death would likely react to Liminals.

John:
Well the GOD OF DEATH is SATURN but I suppose you want something more Grim Reaper / Uriel like? So I suggest a new recruit to her bureau who was given an office that fits your needs. Depending on what you want, it should be very easy. If you want to step away from Exalted’s conception of Saturn as Mung / Atropos / “Murder Buddha” make it a strange spirit, one of the kind that has never had a place in Heaven, and which, through time and selected worship, has cultivated the Abyss into its own natural Essence and has become a thing of Death.*

Such a spirit would look upon the Liminals with contempt. Depending on how much power it seeks to derive from the Underworld, such a being might be threatened by ones whose purpose are to hunt the dead who walk Creation. Alternately, if it more of an incorporation of the offices of Heaven, however dark and deathly, it might work as a benefactor to a Liminal group, although perhaps an untrustworthy one?

*In the Western conception.


HoratioAtTheBridge:
The devs have said interesting things about religion being “more than transactional” in the past, so I’m thinking those themes may have bearing in this Journey game. After all, if you’re searching for True Religion, you have to deal with what True Religion means. In Exalted, the Gods have a definite purpose – maintaining Creation, particularly against the erosion of the Wyld. So, is True Religion just when the Gods properly fulfill their purpose, and the people give them proper food (worship) to fuel that effort? If so, are the Immaculates so wrong? What is wrong with the Immaculate faith?

Vance:
There is no objectively correct faith in Creation. The gods were never meant to reign in heaven and be worshipped by the peoples of Creation, but at the same time, the monstrous demon princes who created the universe don’t exactly seem like guys I’d wanna pray to.

There are lots of people in Creation who believe their faith is true and objectively correct, like there are in reality.

HoratioAtTheBridge:
Of course, the big question here is what makes a religion True. And the setting won’t really answer that, though there can be examples of a lot of ways to answer it. So you may have:

1) The folk who made everything deserve to be worshiped
2) The gods have a purpose, and we worship them in proportion to how well they fulfill their duty
3) The greatest exemplars of virtue deserve to be worshiped
4) Powerful beings deserve to be worshiped
5) I really like that god/something about that god speaks to me, so I worship him

The setting /can/ tell us examples of different people who think each way, and can provide objective answers to how each faith lives up to those measures.

Edit: And I’d like to know the best place in the setting to send my monks to explore each of those propositions. 😀

Vance:
The Immaculates run on a combination of #1, #3, a Terrestrial-only take on #4, and #5.

Outside of the Immaculates, the vast majority of “gods” probably don’t take credit for creating the world, but I’m sure there are still plenty who do that. There are countless creation myths across the cultures of Creation, and telling one about yourself can be a powerful way of persuading people to worship you, if you manage to convince them. Infernalist cults probably don’t know that they’re serving emanations of the makers of the universe.

Worshipping gods based on how well they fulfill their “duty” depends upon what duty we’re talking about. If it’s stewarding the air currents of Creation’s upper skies in a wise and even-handed manner, then no. Pretty much no one who would worship a god has access to the knowledge to even make that appraisal, and probably even fewer care. On the other hand, if a god provides a culture with fertile harvests, victory in war, or rain in drought, now we’re talking. This could be the crude transactions of an asshole god, but it could also be something like Yahweh’s covenant with the tribes of Israel or Odin throwing the spear Gungnir over a battlefield to determine which side will prevail. You’ll find cultures where religious scholarship has developed to the level of having a complex divine hierarchy based on that religion’s concept of divine purpose, but such concepts are rarely “keep this river patched up because the Yozis told you to.”

I’m sure many gods believe themselves to be exemplars of virtue, and claim worship based on that. But that just shifts the inquiry to what “virtue” means, which is just as subjective as any moral inquiry.

Power is generally a good way to get people to worship you, although that dynamic may be left implicit in the theology.

“Picking” a D&D-style patron god isn’t a thing that happens in large parts of Creation. If you grow up in Harborhead, maybe you’ll decide that Ahlat’s religion is all a load of walrus mating, but you’re not going to then convert to worshipping Vanileth because you like tinkering with things. He’s a world away from you, and you don’t have a convenient Roll of Glorious Divinity on hand. Things like Epicurean worship and bodhisattvas certainly can exist in the world—a god might be drawn to and favor mortals with particular traits, and cultures with complex pantheons of multiple gods could involve an element of freely choosing which ones to worship.


will2goforth:
Wait are they getting rid of the Island Five all together or just the whole factory cathedral supermassive fleet part?

Lea:
There wouldn’t be much of a point of having an “Island Five” if we got rid of the factory cathedral creating a supermassive fleet, since Island Five did not exist in the setting prior to Compass: West and was only added there as a place to put a factory cathedal creating a supermassive fleet.

More to the point, Skullstone in 3e won’t have a Deathlord who is secretly planning on killing and obliviating his entire population in order to make a mindless Direction-scouring army, because “A Deathlord who is not really overtly hostile, and seems to be just running a society where life and death intermingle” is probably of more use to the setting than “A Deathlord who seems not really overly hostile, but actually he’s just as much of a Skeletor as the other twelve.”

ADamiani:
Really?
Why?
Because Island Base, secret fleet, respectable public face makes him a really solid James Bond villain. He’s basically Alexander Pierce.

Vance:
Bond villain is shooting too low for antagonists of the Deathlords’ caliber.

Lea:
Having the Secret Twist for Skullstone be “And soon all of this will be burned to ash and cinder by its ruler, and all its inhabitants souls’ destroyed, and there’s nothing you can do about it probably!” discourages player engagement.

AlphaWhelp:
I don’t inherently reject a silver prince Nerf. I reject the concept of nice-guy-deathlord.

Lea:
Who said he was nice? Silver Prince in 1e was clearly probably up to something maybe.

We’re just not happy with the way it was actualized.

We’re also much more interested in Skullstone as a setting than as an adventure site, and more interested in the Deathlords as disparate powerful figures with a bunch of different agendas than as a unified cabal all working towards the same end.

AlphaWhelp:
Why are the never born making champions to do things other than end the world? Will the never born also be getting new personalities and contradictory goals?

Lea:
Hmm.

(That’s a thing that I wrote like a year and a half ago, FYI. Maybe longer. The context was someone asked “Can the Deathlords betray the Neverborn?” and someone else replied “No, of course not, because X book says they have Limit tracks, and the Neverborn obvs would use their Limit tracks to prevent it.”)

AlphaWhelp:
1. Why the hell would the never born continue to aid a bunch of shit head ghosts who betrayed them? (Re: why would the never born bother to negotiate for abyssals if those abyssals were not going to be used for the never born goals?). Are you going to say now that maybe they aren’t and the abyssals work directly for the never born? That might be pretty cool and introduces a deathknight vs deathlord dynamic we haven’t seen before. ( there is basically nothing in the underworld that can challenge an abyssal except another abyssal)

Lea:
Because the Neverborn are a) crazy, b) stuck at the bottom of a pit, and c) not even conscious actors, but rather thrashing around in their dead-but-dreaming sleep.

AlphaWhelp:
2. Where do we draw the line at “fuck it”. Will akuma be allowed to tell their patron yozi to eat a dick now? Why would the yozi risk making more god damned solaroids knowing they can be betrayed and killed by the very exalted they made (GSPs)

Lea:
I know of no plans for akuma and similar free-will-denied Yozi pawns to return in 3e.

It’s seriously starting to seem like you oppose what I’ve said here about the Silver Prince because what you think makes for a good Silver Prince has like absolutely nothing to do with what I think makes for a good one.

AlphaWhelp:
If deathlords can now betray neverborn, how does FaFL get his armor? Does he even have the same armor? Maybe he’s just wearing normal armor now? Why would princess magnificent do anything he says? When you mess with the fundamental axioms of an established setting while at the same time trying to preserve that setting as much as possible, what you end up with is something even worse than what you had than when you started (see: Zeal)

Lea:
I am sure you can come up with a non-sucky description of how the Neverborn may have imprisoned the First and Forsaken Lion in his armor that’s consistent with everything I’ve just said. Hint: Sometimes, beings that drift in and out of lucidity may have periods of greater lucidity, and sometimes, powerful actors under constraint may encounter circumstances in which their power to act is more or less constrained.

Lea:
Pointing to two examples of Deathlords being punished for going against the Neverborn’s wishes and holding that up as a reason for why the Deathlords can’t go against the Neverborn’s wishes or else they’ll be punished is like pointing to a jail full of criminals as evidence for why there’s no crime, because criminals get sent to jail.

AlphaWhelp:
But neither here nor there. the FaFL is an exception because most of the other deathlords actually want to be loyal to the neverborn

Lea:
Not my read.

Or, at least, not my read of the Deathlord material I actually like.

Kahbiel:
Breaking out the Island V fleet and its attendant atrocities turns the whole question of the game from “what is the right choice?” to “whose magic dick is biggest?”. It’s so big it’s trivial, it’s so looming it’s ridiculous.

Lea:
This is well-said.

Blaque:
I mostly am noting how Skullstone doesn’t need a giant massive First Age arsenal doomfleet to be badass if it has over half a dozen Celestial Exalted, a Deathlord and necromancers. The worry that just a circle of Solars will steamroll over that by dint of being a circle of Solars seems to be devaluing the whole factors involved in what makes Skullstone potent as-is without introduction of bullshit doomfleets.

I could see a fairly long-established and well-trained necromancer being a good threat though if they play their cards right. Skullstone happens to be a regional superpower due to so many powerful beings and lots of necromancy in one place, though. Emphasizing what it has already as potent makes the need for a doomfleet much less justifiable, I find.

And stuff.

Holden:
Skullstone is a regional superpower, above and beyond and before anything else, because it is staggeringly wealthy.

Irked:
I’m arguing for deathlords that are, from an omniscient-reader point of view, unambiguously evil;

John:
Deathlords are clearly horrific, terrible, wicked beings, but they can’t be considered unambiguously evil because their uncanny nature is by definition ambiguous. A Deathlord is not just a scary sorcerer king with all the ambitions you’d expect, but a remnant, a shadow, a thing created by horrific agony and loss, and animated by memories, emotions, and a manifestation of powerful Essences that can never die. Is a hurricane unambiguously evil? Is Lucifer evil, or the one who created him, already knowing what he would be? Are the Sidereals unambiguously evil? They put the sword in his back; they made the Deathlord possible. They didn’t know what would happen. Does this oversight make them unambiguously evil?

No. They might be evil, but the very nature of evil is that it is ambiguous. If it wasn’t, justice would be infallible and obvious in every respect, and there’d be no problems to solve and no debates worth having. Can you call a Deathlord evil without implicating everyone who had a hand in creating him? Can you call a Deathlord evil at all, if it is not responsible for its actions?

Holden:
Comparing 1e Skullstone to 2e Skullstone, 2e Skullstone is much more detailed and vastly less interesting because it all ultimately reduces to “everyone there is the Silver Prince’s dupe lining up for the slaughterhouse, also he has 100 indestructible warships each individually capable of conquering a nation”

Irked:
Briefly put, I suspect you and I have a fundamental real-world disagreement on this point. I think there are lots of other possible reasons for fallible justice, including things like, “We don’t have an objective, omniscient third-person view of the world” and “We are, ourselves, more than a little bit wicked”; none of these negate the possibility that something can be objectively (and quite unambiguously) evil. I also think this is probably not the forum for the debate that could ensue on that point.

John:
You don’t have an omniscient third person view of Exalted either, so what you’re asking for isn’t actually possible.


Tricksy and False:
Question for devs and writers:

When it comes to limit break, what media resources (books, TV shows, etc) would you suggest for understanding it? My go-to example is season two of Avatar: the Last Air-Bender when Aang flips out in the desert when he realizes Apa has been kidnapped. I’m usually hard-pressed to think of other examples from other works of fiction, though.

This assumes limit break is even still a thing in 3E.

Vance:
Jesus driving the moneylenders out of the temple. Gilgamesh oppressing and ravaging the people of his kingdom until they cry out to the gods for relief. Asuka’s slide into suicidal depression after being traumatized by an attacking angel. Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. Achilles in his tent, of course.


Anu:
Without going into the mechanics, can you tell us how Solars can use familiars in combat?

Vance:
You can ride a tyrant lizard into the ranks of an army and start chowing down.

You can fight alongside the pack of wolves that raised you.

Or you could do this.


will2goforth:
Are mortals only able to use sorcerous workings or can they also gain access to spells?

Vance:
They can cast spells.

will2goforth:
Is sorcery something they have to be born with, something you can gain through studying/deals with powerful beings, or both?

Vance:
Sorcery is not something that everyone is capable of, but the quality that makes one capable is deliberately left instated. A mortal could master sorcery by reading the tomes of an ancient library-manse, strike a bargain for power with an elemental lord, or initiate into the sorcerous truths of the cosmos through profound revelation, or any other number of unique paths.

will2goforth:
If you had a mortal, a Dragonbloded, and a Solar all trying to do the same tuning with sorcery would someone be able to tell what each of them were by how they went about it?

Vance:
What do you mean by “tuning?”

will2goforth:
Sorry that was a mistype and autocorrect. Was supposed to be if they were trying to do the same thing. So if they were each casting the same spell how easy would it be for another character be to figure out who was who. I’m curious both because I wonder what it would look like to an outside observer when each of them use sorcery and because I wonder how hard it would be for a Solar sorcerer to masquerade as a mortal or Dragonbloded sorcerer.

Vance:
It depends. The ways that a sorcery casts their sorcery depends on their specific initiation—you’ll probably be able to tell the infernalist who pacted with Ligier for power from a scavenger prince who’s mastered the sorcerous power of an emerald ring uncovered in a ruin. As a general rule, whether you’re a mortal or an Exalt doesn’t make a difference as to that, but there are some exceptions. There may be a distinctively Solar philosophy of sorcery, or a recognizable system taught at the Heptagram, but those are going to be the exception rather than the rule.


deluge:
Will the Lintha still have a supernatural origin in 3E?

John:
Oh yes.


Anu:
Can Sorcerers initiate into more than one type of sorcery?
Can you tell us anything about Sidereal sorcery?
Are there any Charms of Evocations that interact with sorcery?

Holden:
1) Hmm, what do you mean by ‘type of’ sorcery?

2) Sidereal sorcery is practiced primarily by the Sidereal Exalted.

3) Yes, there are. :0

MAXedOUT:
Seeing as the first tier of magic is the Emerald (terrestrial) tier, do the majority of the spells involve one of the 5 elements?

Vance:
There’s no forced association, although a fair bunch of the Terrestrial Circle spells are elemental magic.

MAXedOUT:
Are there any spells that involve more than one element being “harnessed” at the same time?

Vance:
Does a Magma Kraken count?

will2goforth:
1) Are any/most/all spells limited to certain initiation methods?

Vance:
There aren’t any restrictions based on initiation in the core book spells, although it’s not unimaginable that those could show up later on in the line.

will2goforth:
2) Is there any sorcery initiation associated with the Fair Folk?

Vance:
There is one that is closely tied to the Wyld, which can be pretty easily hacked to fit gaining sorcerous power from a faerie bargain or similar.

will2goforth:
3) Are all the various initiation methods thought up so far going to be in the core book?
4) If someone comes up with an initiation method that you hadn’t thought of will there be any way to make that work?

Vance:
The diversity of initiations means that we could never fit them all into one book. The entire initiation system is essentially a system for taking cool sorcerer character concepts and translating them into mechanics that play nicely with the sorcery system. There’s some advice on hacking together your own homebrew initiations.

will2goforth:
1) Has summoning remained mostly unchanged from previous editions?

Vance:
By and large. Mechanical and conceptual changes have been made, but it’ll largely play out the same.

will2goforth:
2) Is there anything other than access to the third circle that makes Solars preeminent sorcerers?

Vance:
Solar Occult Charms can’t hurt!

will2goforth:
3) What is the most interesting option available to sorcerers thats being introduced in this edition?

Vance:
Something to do with a Magma Kraken, probably.

El_phantasmo:
F’rex a mortal casting Magma Kraken (Running theme!) has a big Magma Kraken turn up. A Solar does the same as does a Lunar. Do all the Magma Krakens function and appear the same? This is of course assuming just the spells used, no Charms or Evocations or anything added into the mix.

Vance:
“It’s the Death of Obsidian Butterflies, not the Death of Silver Wrens.” That quote largely holds true—every spell is a distinctive and unique miracle that takes a particular form. However, it’s not unimaginable that some initiations could allow some aesthetic manipulation.

Anu:
Can a sorcerer initiate into Wyld Sorcery, then strike a bargain with a god to initiate into whatever kind of sorcery that gives, then initiate into the sorcery that’s implied to do something weird to the soul, and then top it off by picking up the Solar sorcery charms?

Gotta catch ’em all.

John:
That’s not actually a thing.

There’s no such thing as “Wyld Sorcery” in the sense you’re imagining.

Vance:
There aren’t really “kinds” of sorcery in the way you’re referring to. I’ve been pretty liberal with my use of quotation marks around related terms, and there’s a reason. The difference between seeing the truth of the cosmos in the Ginnungagap of chaos, gambling with the God of Foolish Choices for sorcerous power, and threading your soul together with a goetic symbiote is what I’ve been calling your “initiation.” “Initiation” is the lens through which you see and are able to shape sorcery, not a type. It’s kinda semantically nitpicky, but I think it’s an important misconception to dispel.

That said, yeah.

Roland X:
Then to put it another way, can you have multiple “lenses,” the way some Awakened can learn multiple paradigms in Mage, or it is more like, “you already had your epiphany into the fundamental nature of the universe, you can’t do that twice”? Or split the difference and only certain Exalted can take multiple initiation-related abilities as Charms, because Exalted?

Lea:
Book’s got advice on mixing-and-matching the benefits of the various Initiations, or stealing the mechanics for the existing ones to make your own.

Roland X:
That’s cool, but it still begs the question of whether or not initiatory benefits can be added to or swapped out, and the consequences of any related bargains. Basically, there will always Fausts who bargain too greedily and too deep, to epically mix my metaphors, but could you have a Constantine who flips off the three demons he’s made deals with, because only one of them can have him?

Lea:
We don’t really have a Faustalike, in the sense of sorcerers who initiate via fuckup they really should have thought out better.

Vance:
I think you could wrangle an initiation around it, but a lot of it would be about the awesome sorcerous upsides you get, which kinda cancels out the ill-considered fuckup element. As a general rule, being a sorcerer is awesome, not something fraught with reasons to brood.

Lea:
More specifically, the insight necessary to become a sorcerer is yours. It’s not something someone can take away from you, it’s not something someone can gift you in a trapped fashion. If you find insight in mind-cracking exposure to a terrible god-monster from outside time and space, it’s real insight. If you achieve an epiphany after learning secrets from a demon, it’s a real epiphany. There isn’t really an equivalent to “I grant you this power, but in exchange I own your soul,” at least not in the context of sorcery; even if your initiation is terrifying, or awful, you still come out of it with something that belongs wholly to you.

Anu:
So if a Solar gains sorcery from bargaining with a god/elemental/ghost demon, it’s not the bargain itself that grants her sorcery, but rather the accumulated occult knowledge which she called upon during and gained as a result of the bargain?

Lea:
You can bargain with a demon to teach you the secrets of sorcery but the demon actually has to teach you the secrets of sorcery as part of the bargain, yeah. Then you know them.

Like, the setting has space for the spirit that makes a bargain with a dude and thereafter follows the dude around and uses its powers on his behalf, and the dude has to keep doing what the spirit says or the spirit can stop, and this can even abut sorcery somewhat, but that’s not really sorcery’s inherent design space as such.


Hurum:
What Thaumaturgy like in this edition?

Vance:
Rare and miraculous gifts possessed by shamans, wise men and women, and mystical initiates, which the Exalted may master through the Occult Ability.


Blaque:
As I gather, the devs have stated that Akuma actually indeed are no longer a thing.

Lea:
Let’s say instead that their inclusion is not guaranteed. There’s no reason someone might not come up with a really cool take on them between now and whenever.


Wuse_Major:
Ignoring Exaltations and Sorcery for the moment, are there any other ways for a normal person to gain magic? If so, can you tell us about them?

John:
Normal people can’t do magic.

will2goforth:
Is there any way to use spells without being a sorcerer? Like an artifact or something that would let you use a specific spell.

John:
Nothing we’ve written thus far will allow it, but the Solars made all manner of sorcerous weaponry, so maybe.


Sigilistic:
A while back, the devs mentioned that there would be a sort of “What If?” timeline approach to the setting, with glimpses into the future of what would/could happen unless the players get involved. Could you elaborate more on how that will be handled?

John:
We have a lot of ideas for this, and I can’t reveal them all. Whatever we present as “in the future” will be available for you to change or guarantee–whatever fits your story.


Bersagliere Gonzo:
Are there any plans to give “familiar charms” to Lunars?

Holden:
Lunars are still a ways out, but I imagine they will have some tricks in this department.


axl666:
Hi Holden, John and other dev.,

After a good bit of consideration I think I’m going to skip the Ex3 rulebook. Mainly
because I’m happy enough with the rule set in Ex1 edition.

However I’m very interested in the books that you have coming out soon after the
EX3 core (exigents, dragon-blooded etc.)

Would it be easy to cannibalize those books for parts (setting/charm ideas etc.) that could
be used for a 1st ed. ruleset?

John:
You should find a lot of new inspiration in future releases. 🙂


Rylan:
Metaphysics question, I hope it makes sense. Some presumptions, first.

Gods can create Exigents, and that is basically what the Unconquered Sun did when he created his Exalted, he just had enough power to do it a lot. These Exalted all start with that tiny ‘scrap’ of power, and it grows over time, perhaps even beyond what the God themselves could have achieved. (Maybe? Can a Super-Max Solar go toe to toe with Sol? I’ll assume.)

What if the God was able to call that power back, consume it or have it channeled back to them in some way? What would happen to the God? Would they just explode? Would they become a Primordial? (In a way, any god that creates an Exalted kind of is a Primordial, since subservient souls are direct extensions of the …head(?) Primordial and that paradigm can be likened to how Gods use their power to create an Exalted. Some key differences, but the concepts can be said to be similar.) Using the UCS as an example, if he had 150 high power Solar essences all return to him, would that not inflate his power exponentially?

I think it’s been said that the Gods can’t do that, but in a game about punching living oceans tied up in the threads that hold the world together all run by mechanical spiders who like it when things are awesome I’m not about to rule out a Solar going “I wonder what would happen if the man upstairs had all of this power back?”

Sorry if that doesn’t make any sense. It’s been in my head a long time.

John:
First, that’s not how the Unconquered Sun made his Solars. He needed no Exigence to produce his Chosen.

Second, the Essence of an Exalt is no longer the property of the god who chose them, such that they could recall the power. It is a sufficiently different Essence as to be thought of as the Essence of an entirely different being or god, because it is. Lytek scrapes a lot of dross off of Exaltations and they’re still fundamentally outside the Essence of the gods who bore them. So while there is a strong connection between the Essence of the Exalt and their progenitor spirit, it is not like a power pellet they’ve eaten or a spell that’s been cast on them, a floaty bit of magic energy that makes them a superhero. It’s actually their Essence, the sum of all that makes them be.

Look at this Etymology of the word essence:

late 14c., essencia (respelled late 15c. on French model), from Latin essentia “being, essence,” abstract noun formed (to translate Greek ousia “being, essence”) from essent-, present participle stem of esse “to be,” from PIE *es- “to be” (cognates: Sanskrit asmi, Hittite eimi, Old Church Slavonic jesmi, Lithuanian esmi, Gothic imi, Old English eom “I am;” see be).

Essence in Exalted is more than just a word slapped onto your mana points. It is a word that was very carefully chosen because it represents a wholeness of a sum, not just one part of it. Essence is a total emanation. You cannot lose your Essence without dying. Your Essence does not then return to your patron because it is not exactly theirs anymore.


Solar:
On the subject of the setting;

Scavenger Sons, in 1st ed, specifically noted that it tended to look at the more unusual city-states which kind of skewed the information we are presented with towards places which resist or have a strange relationship with the Realm. I always felt that material on the Realm was typically regarding the Blessed Isle or almost made it seem like a paper tiger, even in terms of the Realm before the Empress disappeared.

Will the upcoming Realm sourcebook cover the non-Blessed Isle elements of The Realm who are thoroughly loyal/oppressed in a bit more detail? It would be nice to have more examples of places where The Realm really do stamp resistance into the ground, the Immaculate Order really do destroy local religious cults etc, and the Realm is generally given more of an Imperial sense. I admit, I’ve not read all the setting material that the Exalted line has released, but I did feel that it was somewhat odd for everywhere the material looked at, it showed a self-professed exception to the norm.

John:
Indeed it will.


Isator Levie:
Speaking of sorcerers; mortals becoming sorcerers is supposed to be rare and difficult, but can any of the Exalted influence that, and how much would it take to do so?

Vance:
There is no Charm that lets you just turn a mortal into a sorcerer. At the same time, “was taught the ancient secrets of sorcery by one of the returned Exalted” is a perfectly legitimate origin for a sorcerer.

Isator Levie:
So it’s going to take establishing an academy

Vance:
The academy is not the default mode of sorcerous instruction—outside of the Heptagram, of course. Each sorcerer’s methods of teaching her students are probably going to be heavily shaped by the way she casts sorcery, her personality, and her personal skills in training or educating others.

Isator Levie:
Your comment has helped shift me into a mind set in which a Solar elevating a miracle worker or a hero is the kind of thing that should more reflect the personal interactions between them rather than churning them out like an assembly line.

Vance:
Yup.

Isator Levie:
I don’t think it would be incorrect to say that if you want to develop a large, organised and somewhat uniform group of sorcerers, you kind of need to be the sort of person who would build Sperimin.

It’s like the Dragon Blooded; sure, there are at least as many outside the Realm as there are inside of it, but there’s no getting around something that at least resembles the Scarlet Dynasty if you want them all to be in one place.

If you want to institutionalize something, you probably need an institution. 😀

Vance:
There are multiple modes of institution that sorcerous traditions can take, and the mode of “school” doesn’t work for everyone. Illustrious Aya, who read the sorcerous treatises of her own past incarnation in the ruins of a great library-manse, isn’t going to face much trouble adapting the academy model. Fox That Haunts The Mill, who initiated into sorcery by glimpsing the terrible secret face of the cosmos in her dreams, is going to want some alternative arrangement, maybe in the mode of “cult.”


Wuse_Major:
Hmmm… Is there a charm that would allow a mortal martial artist to practice supernatural martial arts? Would a Working do it? I get that the person in question probably stops being “mortal” in the process, but is it a thing an Exalt could do?

John:
The answer to these kinds of questions will always be emphatically no.

Now if you’re asking if YOUR Exalt can do it, that’s another story.

And the answer is none of my business. Ask your Storyteller.


Guancyto:
So, back in the 2nd thread (my god you guys, you have over a thousand pages of Q&A, you are made of madness) there was some writing about giving the Great Houses of the Realm a lot of good reasons to fight each other, which is probably something they needed.

Are there a lot of good reasons for people in them to cooperate? I say this because every single dynastic game I’ve ever been in or seen has each PC from a different House (seriously, never any overlap, we seem to treat it like character classes). It’d be good to know that there’s some leeway for me to make a V’Neef and my buddy to make a Peleps and we can together forge the Oath of the Peach Garden to hold together a failing Realm without, you know, getting immediately crucified by our relatives.

John:
Re: V’neef/Peleps: Well, why should they crucify you? It seems to me like your characters have divorced themselves from their families. If they haven’t, then you have to explain why they are working together in the first place—why they have so much loyalty to one another when their loyalties should lie with their families, which would put them in conflict. There are hundreds of reasons why a Peleps and V’neef friendship is very unlikely and impractical, but your characters bucked the trend. I don’t think crucifixion is on the agenda for going out on your own. Expect a cut in stipend and reduced roles of importance if you ignore your elders or refuse to use your friend as a source of info on a rival House. The conflict you are talking about doing away with is actually the one that drives your story.


Anu:
Can you tell us something about intimidation and related Presence charms?

Vance:
*fondly regards Countenance of Vast Wrath*

Anu:
Can I use it to stare down drug dealers and demand they say my name?

Vance:
Yes, in the same way that you can use a nuclear warhead to take down a squirrel on yonder tree branch.


Charles Gray:
So here’s a question– some of us like the magitech Final Fantasy style look and feel, while the canon setting isn’t going with ths, how hard would it be to tweak to rules to work with that style of setting?

Vance:
Warstriders and gunzosha armor and suchlike are still things that exist. What’s changed is their presentation in the setting (re: being rare wonders of a lost age), and the lack of the term “magitech” itself. If you want to crank everything into overdrive and make warstriders as common as daiklaves, the rules aren’t going to give out on you, but the setting is going to be majorly warped.


Isator Levie:
I get the feeling from a lot of hatewheel’s statements that this Edition isn’t really interested in vigorously deconstructing its own mythology.

John:
Indeed.

FrivYeti:
Metaphysics wank was actually what drew a lot of my group to play Exalted. If we wanted sword and sorcery, we could get that anywhere, but Exalted had this great, sweeping idea of how the universe worked, which was something new and different and exciting. Motonic physics and the writings of the Shogunate from the Aspect books, the songs of the least gods and the nature of the constellations, the bodies of the Yozi and the mechanisms by which the Sun was born and might pass his power on – this was all stuff that we ate up, that informed characters and gave us ideas that entire campaigns hinged on.

Without it, I don’t think I could have convinced them to try Exalted as opposed to just playing Fate.

I mean, I’ve come to accept that my opinion is not that of the developer team, but I’m never going to stop being disappointed about that.

Irked:
This is true for a lot of my group, as well – not all of them, but for many (including me), “fantasy world with rich metaphysics” was a huge draw in a way that “Like Conan!” would not have been. That doesn’t mean it needs to matter to anyone else, obviously, but it’s a bit weird to hear people say, “But what did that really add?”

John:
That’s funny–Conan has only ever made it into tonal comparisons. The metaphysics have been explained to you personally, but you always stated your “confusion” in dozens of posts.

Blaque:
I think the thing to think on is not so much whether or not there will be metaphysics but what emphaiss is put on them, where and how much that is emphasized. The shinma in the original Fair Folk book were supposed to evoke a sense of legend and possible myth unique to the raksha, not something known outside of them. 2e made them real and told you ways the universe interacted with them in details that don’t matter since in the end a world without any of the shinma as they were classified is incoherent to human players.

Irked:
I mean, according to some of the 1e quotes from Dr. Moran, the primary original purpose of the shinma is so you could hunt them down and punch them until Kejack and the Empress are the same person. You can say they were there to evoke a sense of legend and myth, and that’s certainly true, but they were also an application of set theory to a fantasy world, with the intent that you might someday do violence to the underlying cosmological principles of reality.

John:
Meanwhile, I’ve had personal discussions with writers who have claimed that the Neverborn are not killable, not even through the use of Ghost-Eating Technique. It’s reasonable to suspect that the shinma might also be something that don’t exist to be facepunched, because indeed, certain writers made those kinds of statements.

Solar:
Like I said, just because you’re not interested doesn’t mean it’s not interesting.

Now, if you said “what’s more useful, the absolute truth, or what the various characters think are the truth?” then I’d say the latter, but the latter comes from people’s understanding (and lack thereof) of the actual situation. I don’t want to leap upon “did night exist before the Night Caste?” as a hill to die on, here (because it happened ages ago and yeah, it’s not really something you can know either way as a character in modern creation, nor would it really help you if you did), but I do think that if Exalted is going to present some myth elements, and also have a theme running through it of investigating a pseudo-realistic ramification of a mythical situation (which is basically the thrust of the game, and something which has drawn a lot of people) then you can’t complain when people start asking questions about what this particular myth really means. Of course they’re asking. The whole game basically trains you to go “hmmm, I wonder what the logistics of Usurpation looked like.”

Like I said, I’m fine with the game not answering that question, but that doesn’t mean those questions aren’t interesting. Not to you, it seems, but to others? Definitely seems to be the case.

John:
People find that sort of question (“of or from the Dragons”) interesting because there is no answer. Questions with mutually exclusive answers can lead to interesting stories. These stories conflict with each other until the question gets answered. We see that conflict as desirable, and the answer to the question as more than pointless. We see it as destructive, because it eliminates conflict.

To further clarify the pointlessness of the answer—the point of that story was not whether Deled is right or wrong. It’s that he killed a woman in broad daylight in front of witnesses because he could get away with it. Focusing on his dogma and ignoring the corpse and the society that produced a murderer is not seeing the forest for the trees. We have very good reasons for not devoting word counts to that kind of navel gazing.


You can find the next compilation here:
Q&A Summary #14

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