Month: October 2015

Exalted 3e: Sample Basic Projects

Olaus Magnus Historia om de nordiska folken

In the Exalted Third Edition crafting system, basic projects are a bit of a bugaboo. In looking at the rules, many players focus entirely on major and superior projects, and don’t want to bother dealing with the basics.

This is in part because the crafting system, like the combat system, uses pacing mechanisms that aren’t strictly realistic—after all, needing to get inspired by making a child’s toy before you can forge a sword is no more “realistic” than having to make a Withering attack before you can just stab a dude in the face.

Crafting is also meant to tie into the social system. Artisans earning crafting XP through interaction with other characters, encouraging them to learn about and interact with the people around them.

And perhaps most importantly, the system is meant to encourage crafting in actual play, rather than have a master of Craft ignore the Craft ability 99% of the time, then disappear into her workshop for a few months to make whatever magical device the current situation demands.

All of this leads to situations where a player may just want to make a sword, only to feel as though they have to jump through hoops to do so. This is exacerbated by the lack of clear direction and contextual examples for basic projects in the crafting rules. Seeing “make a chair” or “fletch an arrow” in isolation—without connection to crafting objectives and, through them, the setting—makes it feel for some like they’re “grinding spoons to build a daiklave” in the MMO sense. But crafting that doesn’t tie into story and setting earns no crafting XP, so while making a chair is a basic project, you can’t just churn them out randomly for points.

This also ties into the common confusion regarding Craft areas of expertise, insofar as readers often miss or forget about the ability to craft things that your areas of expertise overlap with, such as an armorer having basic metalworking and leatherworking skills, or a shipwright knowing a bit about everything from joinery to clothworking, ropemaking, and tinkering with pulleys. It’s easier to come up with worthwhile basic projects when you have a clearer sense of what sorts of things your crafter can build using the areas of expertise you’ve purchased.

(A side note on basic projects and the MMO grind: Crafting is meant to emphasize role-playing and interaction with the setting, so Storytellers should be lenient with basic objectives unless it looks like the artisan is trying to game the system. Basic objectives are a little bit like stunts; don’t validate repetitive instances of either.)

As a reminder and clarification: By definition, a basic project is a task that requires the character to work for several minutes to several hours, requiring little in the way of effort or materials. Note that this is time worked, not time overall. This is critical for crafts such as pottery or leatherworking that involve a lot of wait time wherein the artisan isn’t actually working. An ordinary pot might take a few days to dry and to heat in the kiln, but the potter only spends a few hours of her time on the project, and invests relatively little in the way of materials and personal effort, so it’s still a basic project.

Ultimately, crafting is supposed to be fun for the player. Don’t look at it as make-work! Try to find ways to tie basic projects into actual play, much as socialite PCs look for opportunities for social interaction, and warrior PCs look for opportunities for violence.

To help inspire players of crafting PCs, here’s a list of examples of basic projects. It’s a good idea to have tools and raw materials on hand to make such things, especially while on the road and out of range of helpful shopkeepers and well-stocked-but-immobile workshops. Some examples include areas of expertise that might suffice to build or repair such projects, and/or notes on context wherein such projects trigger basic objectives. They aren’t the main subject of this post; however, digging into the meat of those things is worth a couple of separate posts later on.

(Disclaimer: I am not a developer, and I cannot guarantee that these suggestions match developer intent.)


Small, simple gifts are one of the best ways to hit a basic project’s basic objectives. One option is children’s toys. Pretty much anyone can carve a doll or figurine—even a cook can bake small women out of dough. And in a setting without mass-produced toys, where peasant children have only what toys they and their families can make, even the simplest efforts of a master artisan will seem marvelous.

Villagers and city-dwellers alike may appreciate game and sport paraphernalia, such as balls, goal nets, and discuses. None seem more complicated than a basic project.

16th century luthierSimple musical instruments, such as a bamboo flute or clay ocarina, are easily basic projects for woodworkers and potters respectively.

Even more accessible is simple jewelry. A blacksmith or bladewright might not be able to manage a fine chain but can certainly make a plain ring. A tailor can weave a cloth bracelet or silken diadem, a woodworker an artful pendant or wreath.

While elaborate attire requires a major project, sewing simple clothing such as cloaks or tunics seems a good fit for a basic project, and there’s always someone who would thank you for a garment to keep off the rain. And you don’t have to be a tailor to make certain garb or accessories; for instance, an armorsmith—as an expert with straps and buckles—could doubtless make a belt with no penalty. Adjusting the fit of a garment isn’t exactly manufacture and isn’t exactly repair, but it’s a good basic project either way.

Simple tools are invaluable in a variety of situations. While any household or farm implement can be a treasured gift to impoverished commoners, many tools are useful even for the Chosen—and if the tool is useful, that’s the third basic objective fulfilled. Torches or oil lamps illuminate without the risks of flaring one’s anima, while sometimes you just need a shovel or mattock to unearth a treasure or dig a grave.

Everyone needs containers sooner or later. Canteens for the trail, mugs—or glasses, leather jacks, or drinking horns—for the table, and a flask for a little nip now and then. Baskets, boxes, barrels, buckets, crates, jugs, vials, sacks… all manner of simple containers are basic projects, such that most areas of expertise can manage something appropriate.

On the subject of things that hold other things, one can assemble simple restraints—such as a pillory, set of manacles, or bamboo cage—as a basic project. Conversely, for PCs of larcenous inclination, one might forge a set of lock picks or make a duplicate of a key.

While medicine is covered by, well, Medicine, actually manufacturing medical paraphernalia falls under Craft’s aegis, and they’re not always to hand in an emergency. Creation’s chirurgeons have access to many tools, and the simpler ones—from bandages and sutures to scalpels and bonesaws—should qualify as basic projects. Do you need to get a badly wounded character to safety? Put together a stretcher or travois. Too late to save them, and no time (or interest) in an elaborate sendoff? Build a rude wooden coffin or assemble a pyre, then carve a grave marker or make a simple funerary urn.

Similarly, sorcerers and thaumaturges often require occult paraphernalia, and while devices employed in workings should ideally be of fine and elaborate construction, sometimes there’s need for quicker craftsmanship, such as painting a binding circle for an elemental summoning, or crafting a clay vessel to bind an exorcised ghost.

While nomads and cavalrywomen will especially value gifts of horse tack—bridles, reins, harness, horseshoes, etc.—they’re often useful to PCs as well, especially when an enemy slashes your reins, or after you abandon all your tack to escape an ambush. And who but your Circle’s crafter is fit to devise the tack for your tyrant lizard mount?

An architect or carpenter can build small, simple structures such as lean-tos as a basic project, especially with prepared raw materials such as presawn boards. So can other artisans with bordering areas of specialty, such as a clothier making a tent. Other quickly and easily built structures and mechanisms fall within the remit of the engineer as well as the architect, such as a rope bridge, or a short pontoon bridge assembled from existing small craft. Likewise, an engineer or shipwright could easily assemble existing pulleys into a block and tackle to lift a stone block or fallen tree.

Basic fortifications should be major projects if they’re expansive, but sufficiently small-scale versions seem like they could be basic. This includes such defenses as abatis, barricades, concealed troux de loup, caltrops, archers’ stakes, cheval-de-frise, ditches, and trenches. This also includes such traps as deadfalls, snares, and tripwire alarms. Remember that the first basic objective also triggers when your project strengthens negative Intimacies, and catching enemies in traps or thwarting them with fortifications can yield hatred, fear, wariness, or other relevant Intimacies.

Simple weapons that don’t require forging and tempering—such as a club, staff, spear, sling, self bow, or long bow—can demand sufficiently little time and resources as to be crafted as basic projects. The same applies to ammunition such as arrows or sling bullets. I’d say that you could also make a quick and dirty cast-iron sword or similar weapon as a basic project, but not having been properly forged and tempered, it would lack proper balance, its edge would blunt easily, and it would be vulnerable to shattering. Aside from grist for botches, I’d allow such weapons with the Improvised tag.

Elaborate armor is a major project, but I figure that it should only take a few hours and not overmuch effort for an expert crafter either to sew together a simple buff jacket or to reinforce one with available plates and swatches of mail, making these basic projects. And as with clothing, armor is best fitted to an individual wearer, and taking in an overlarge hauberk or adding longer straps to a too-snug breastplate should be viable basic projects (and much appreciated by the wearers).

indexAnyone designing an intricate object or structure might construct preparatory materials such as diagrams, blueprints, and scale models, which are often quick and easy enough to make that they’ll be basic projects. Note that these don’t suffice simply as adjuncts to crafting something else, any more than you can craft a sword’s hilt as a basic project to fold into making the sword, but they can count as projects if they have independent uses. You might make a scale model of a palace as part of persuading a queen to hire you as an architect. You might draw blueprints of an enemy fortress from memory to help your circle’s Night to sneak in and steal something, or to aid your Dawn in planning a siege. And a diagram of a flying machine might inspire a student with new ideas.

Putting the final touches on nearly completed items manufactured by your apprentices, whether adjusting a clock mechanism or affixing a jewel to a sword’s pommel, should often be a basic project. This can easily uphold an Intimacy of perfectionism, and a bit of interaction with apprentices can create or strengthen Intimacies involving you or their own work ethic.

While making repairs to something built with a major project normally requires another major project, this is contextual, based on the specifics of the crafted item and the nature of the damage. For instance, while a broken sword must be reforged as a major project, replacing the shattered haft of a halberd is a much simpler and quicker task, requiring no forge-work, and thus makes sense as a basic project. Likewise, while repairs to a ship’s hull requires a series of major projects, simply repairing torn rigging or mending tattered sails fits the time and effort requirements of a basic project.

Exalted 3e: The Basic/Major Project Divide

Badhild_in_Wielands_Schmeid_by_Johannes_Gehrts

A lot of the problems people are having with the basic/major divide in crafting comes from lowballing the difficulty of the sample major projects. Those projects are a lot more elaborate and time-consuming than they may appear at first glance to the modern reader!

When it comes to forging battle-ready arms and armor, players are getting hung up on “battle-ready” and missing the “forging” part. A sword isn’t just a bar of metal that pops out of the mine in a perfect sword shape, which you merely have to put an edge on. Not only does a sword or other metal weapon need to be painstakingly hammered into the right shape for proper balance, it also needs to be heat-treated to handle impact stresses from parries and from striking armor and bone, which would otherwise eventually cause it to shatter. Forging a battle-ready sword takes weeks. Meanwhile, a club—the go-to example in crafting discussions—is easily as simple to make as any of the sample basic projects in the book.

Meanwhile, a banquet for a prince’s table or a god’s festival isn’t a fancy meal for one. Such a banquet may serve hundreds or even thousands of people at once, requiring complex logistics and dozens of assistants. They can also last for several days, with a constant inflow of raw materials to be constantly transformed into foodstuffs.

And as for sculpting a statue? It took Michelangelo over a year to sculpt the Pietà, while his larger-than-life David took over two years. Even modern sculptors equipped with power tools require months to go from creating a preliminary model and selecting an appropriate stone block to final polishing and treatment. A simpler statue is no doubt quicker, and supernatural sculpting talent speeds things up immeasurably, but the process remains orders of magnitude slower than, say, cooking a meal.

If you’re not sure whether a project is basic or major? It’s almost certainly basic.

Exalted 3e: Individual Antagonist Write-ups

In the Exalted Third Edition core book’s Antagonists chapter, a handful of what might otherwise be generic stat blocks contain individual character write-ups. These include Rain Plum, Duah Omorose, Smoking Crescent, Kina of Swanmare, Zoria, Sard, and the Prince of the Red Chamber. Aside from providing the occasional plot hook, they all serve as concrete examples of how unExalted non-player characters aren’t faceless drones there only to bend to your Exalt’s will or fall beneath her blade, but rather individuals with their own lives and loves, histories and personalities, hopes and fears.

But there used to be a lot more. Originally, every single mortal non-player character (and a few other antagonists) had such write-ups. Most were cut for space at various points in the development process. Luckily, my blog has no space limitations! So I’m posting all the cut individual antagonist write-ups here. Enjoy!


Brigand / Conscript / Militia (version 1)

Born in the underground warrens of Fortitude, Cut burned to run with the Skullcracker gang. As a youth he claimed more than his share of food through theft and violence, making him bigger and stronger than most Undersiders—albeit still small and weedy by Northern standards. So he quickly graduated from lookout to thug, and when the time came for his gang initiation, he slit an old man’s throat without thought or scruple. Now he rides with the Skullcrackers beneath the Northern moon, cutting down merchants and guards for a share of their purses.

Irritable and impulsive, Cut is quick to anger and leaps into battle with reckless disregard for his own safety. He’s also dishonest and amoral, and will abandon or betray his fellows if offered a tantalizing reward. He takes pride in his patchwork panoply of scavenged gear—short bow, short sword, patched buff jacket painted with the gang’s cracked skull—and grows belligerent at any slight to his appearance.

Author’s note: Insofar as the sample characters were meant to emphasize the humanity of Creation’s masses, I realized that using a callous brute for the sample brigand—and for the first antagonist and mortal in the chapter—gave the wrong impression. So I replaced him with the following:

Brigand / Conscript / Militia (version 2)

After the Spandrelese army killed his family and put their farm to the torch, Rook joined No-Nose Chou’s bandits to continue fighting the invaders. Demanding money from passing merchants is unfortunate, but he accepts its necessity to fund the bandit troupe. Some of his new comrades were brigands even before the war—criminals, outlaws, killers, and thieves—but most, like him, are ordinary dispossessed citizens. All are his brothers and sisters now, and their camp has become his home.

Rook bears a patchwork panoply of scavenged gear—self bow, short sword, battered breastplate and pot helmet. He fights aggressively against foes associated with Spandrel, rushing to melee and hanging in with high morale. Against anyone else, he hangs back to plink away with his bow, and is liable to flee or surrender.

Nomadic Horse-Archer / Medium Cavalry

Raised in a sheep-herding clan amid the Ghadan, a hilly region southeast of Chiaroscuro, Zaidi Farid learned many skills—riding and hunting, foraging and orienteering, archery and swordsmanship. But his foremost lessons were of Delzahn honor, and he took those teachings to heart. “Never withhold hospitality or reject a gift,” his uncles taught him. “Never forget an obligation or betray a guest. Never yield to pain or fear. And always, always repay an insult—whether to yourself, your kin, or your tribe—with blood.”

Farid rides to war clad in leather and silk lamellar, armed with bow, lance, and sword. He and his comrades employ skirmish tactics against large forces or unnatural foes, firing and falling back to stay out of melee range. Against seemingly weaker or outnumbered opponents, they advance in a disordered rush, ready to fight to the death to win glory through valor. He wears his sword and gray veil even off the battlefield, ready to cross blades with anyone who impugns his character—or to cut them down if they refuse an honorable duel.

Lintha Reaver / Brigand Leader / Grizzled Mercenary

When he killed a high-ranking citizen who’d refused to repay a gambling debt, the Azurite sailor Xu Han fled his homeland to escape execution in the Kraken’s Pool. After a few years of odd jobs and petty crime in the Auspice Isles, he obtained membership in the Lintha Family through an initiation marked by the swearing of dread oaths and a gruesome castration. Now he sails aboard the Coral Jaw out of a Lintha sea-fort, raiding merchant ships among the Near Western archipelagoes.

Xu Han is a brutal, ruthless fighter. In boarding actions he rushes forward in concert with his shipmates, uttering bloodcurdling cries to alarm and demoralize foes. Under other circumstances he attempts to gain surprise. He has a keen eye for markers of status, knowing who to kill and who to take hostage for ransom. His salt-corroded panoply includes javelins, axe, dagger and a reinforced buff jacket—he does not eschew armor because, like many sailors, he cannot swim.

Elite Troops / Champion / Elite Bodyguard

Shigira Mizue was raised in the Weaver’s Lodge of Randan. Although she was a prodigy with the sword, her impatience with hours at the loom and her lack of talent for thaumaturgy closed off access to the highest ranks of the lodge. Instead of struggling to overcome her weaknesses, she focused on her strengths, training relentlessly to become a master duelist. Now she serves as her aunt Okita’s bodyguard and champion.

Mizue’s brocade armor—enchanted to the strength and weight of steel—is so brilliantly dyed that it seems to glow from within, while her scabbard blazes with gems. She requires this rich panoply to be seen in the company of the great artisan-nobles of Randan, where she advises her aunt in matters of violence and danger. If called upon to defend her mistress or to stand in for her in a duel, she will fulfill her obligations unto death.

Sijanese Deadspeaker / Exorcist / Shaman

Apprenticed to the Funerists’ Observance at a young age, White Poem was trained in the funereal traditions and burial rites of dozens of cultures. But she lacked aptitude for the work, eventually botching a funeral service and unleashing a hungry ghost. To impress upon her the consequences of such errors, her superior reassigned her to the Deadspeakers’ Observance for a year’s duty as an exorcist’s assistant. But she found she had both talent and inclination for the job, and she volunteered to remain an exorcist indefinitely.

White Poem possesses several tools to repel the angry dead. Her staff and silver rank-bracers bear enchantments making them tangible to ghosts. Her satchel contains salt, incense and other substances useful in warding and banishing rites. But her primary weapons are words and wit. It’s better to calm or trick a furious spirit than face it in combat, and if battle proves necessary, a silver tongue may persuade other skilled individuals—such as the players’ characters—to join the fight.

Monk / Warrior-Priest

Raised near the ghost-plagued ruins of Gildei, a Northern city massacred centuries ago by the Anathema Jochim in his war against the Realm, Arrow witnessed the suffering of the unquiet dead and the horrors they inflict on the living. This inspired him first to seek ordination as an Immaculate monk in distant Pneuma, and later to volunteer for the Wyld Hunt. He sees his work in the Immaculate Order—educating the peasantry, interceding on their behalf with small gods, succoring the plague-stricken, demanding respect and dignity for outcasts and untouchables—not as a duty, but as a privilege.

Arrow wears no armor, relying on martial arts skill and hook swords for both offense and defense. He fights with calm determination to protect the innocent and oppose wicked spirits. He is willing to debate with Anathema—not in hopes of converting them, but to dissuade onlookers who have entered their service. He will not throw his life away recklessly, and if outmatched, he surrenders in hopes of an opportunity to continue such proselytization.

Assassin / Spymaster

Parayar Irumporai is a ruthless killer. Born to a servant in a wealthy Champoor household, he befriended the heir, Thangam Ari, by doing the other boy’s dirty work—lying, spying, manipulation, theft and violence. As an adult, he stands at Ari’s left hand and performs the same tasks—only now they extend to murder. As wealthy patrons are few and unscrupulous thugs are many, he feels fortunate to have his position and offers prayers and sacrifices to the murder-god Pitiless Bronze.

Irumporai wears his chopping sword openly and conceals throwing knives and a breastplate beneath his clothes. His assassination strategy relies as much on social skills as sneakiness. He relies on guile, bribes and threats to get at targets in vulnerable moments, such as while bathing or in a lover’s embrace. When working with hired thugs or other assassins, he assigns some to hold bodyguards at bay while the deed is done. Persuading him to betray his employer is not impossible, but he knows the value of loyalty and is loath to sever a lifelong relationship.

Zombie

When the plague came to Vesper, Dare perished like many of his kin. In the plague’s wake walked the necromancer who raised the disease-ridden dead as mindless servants. When Dare’s wife took up arms against the defiler, she hesitated when faced by the walking carcass of her love. Now the thing’s face is crusted with her clotted gore and scraps of her flesh cling beneath its fingernails. Though maggots cluster around its eye sockets and the left side of its face is torn away to expose ragged muscle and bone, it remains recognizable as something that once was human.

Erymanthus, the Blood Ape

Though vicious and brutal as any of her kin, Hezura is far more catholic in her taste for blood. Where most erymanthoi prize hot fresh gore, particularly that of humans or cats, she is unconcerned with the source of her nourishment, and is as content to lap up puddles of cold blood from the dirt as to drink it steaming from the vein. Though this quality makes her a more manageable servant, it comes with a lackadaisical laziness that infuriates many sorcerers.

Neomah, the Maker of Flesh

All neomah are creatures of passion. Most invest their fervor in their craft, seeking to master the arts of love and procreation. A few find themselves enthralled by other arts—music or dance, jewelry or poisons. Very rarely do their passions involve lovers and progeny, for whom they feel only a cool, distant affection.

Eleutho is one of those rare exceptions. It fell in love with a sorcerer who summoned it decades ago. Now it has grown obsessed with that sorcerer, incorporating elements of his appearance into its own shapeshifting and into the children it crafts. It even nurtures some curiosity regarding the child it shaped for the sorcerer—a seemingly mortal child—a child who has now Exalted.

Wyld Barbarian

Wears Red is of the Gennanthua, an Eastern tribe in service to the lupine Fair Folk Gennan, whom they worship as a god. Gennan devoured a piece of Wears Red’s soul during her coming-of-age rite, and now she knows no pity. Beneath a cape of scarlet feathers, her skin is covered with intricate patterns of scars and vivid spirals of body paint. She and her fellow warriors raid neighboring tribes and outlying settlements alike for food, tools, and weapons, not to mention prisoners to feed Gennan in exchange for his aid on the hunt and in war.

“Ask the Developers” Thread Summary, Post #16

With the release of the Kickstarter backer PDF for Exalted Third Edition, most traffic has migrated from the RPG.net Exalted developers’ Q&A thread to a bevy of new discussion threads. This post’s compilation of Q&A posts should wrap up the last of the original thread’s developer comments. I’ll work on compiling those other threads’ developer responses to the backer PDF in later posts.

I’ve largely left in Q&A about the book’s contents despite the availability of the backer PDF, because not everyone’s backed the Kickstarter. However, most of the discussion here covers design issues that will hopefully be of interest to all Exalted readers, whether or not you’ve read the book.

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
Q&A Summary #13
Q&A Summary #14
Q&A Summary #15


Glamourweaver:
Oh, here’s another one for the devs…

Given the amount of time they’ve both been at war with Chejop and the Sidereal-establishment, does Rakan Thulio have any open communication lines with the Silver Pact? What barriers if any separate them from joining their causes?

Holden:
Mutual loathing, mostly.


Wuse_Major:
Can dematerialized spirits pass through walls?

Holden:
Yes.


wheloc:
Science is Exalted has always been a sticky-wicket for me. The first edition seemed very anti-science, what with all the “everything you think you know is wrong” blurb on the back, and the fact that people had giant-robot-suits but not crossbows. For all I know, no mortal has ever invented anything in the setting and all technology was given to humans by Autochthon or one of the gods. Natural law seems to have more to do with the behavior of spirits than anything that science can glean, and the only reason laws of physics seem to mostly operate the way they do in the real world is that there’s this big loom that makes sure things mostly happen in an orderly fashion.

Since this is an “ask the devs” thread, I guess I should ask a question: does science and tech run entirely on “the rule of cool”, or are there supposed to be underlying scientific principles of reality?

Holden:
It’s a subject to which I give very little thought because it’s largely irrelevant to telling cool stories about founding nations, overthrowing hostile religions, becoming the wealthiest man from the great span of the mountains to the distant sea, and wreaking bloody-handed revenge on those that did you wrong.

The “do not believe the history they tell you” from 1e was 1) a World of Darkness tie-in and 2) a classic weird fiction framing device to situate the story as a forgotten prehistory of Earth, rather than in some hoodoo imaginary universe like Krynn or Azeroth.

wheloc:
This seems like a reasonable attitude, as long as you’re only talking about Solar exalted. If you want to talk about Sidereal exalted, then you have to talk about how they are part of the celestial bureaucracy, and so you have to talk about the scope of said bureaucracy. In particular, the way it was dealt with in earlier editions kinda pulled the rug out of some (otherwise) cool stories:

Say you had a Solar character concept that involved you hiding out from the Sidereal on account of your cool stealth charms; nope it turns out that every time you used a charm there was a flash on the loom and that any Sidereal could find you just by sending a memo. The only reason that they hadn’t shown up and kicked your ass already is that you just weren’t important enough.

Holden:
That’s a line that got a lot of legs on forums, but no, they never had anything remotely approaching that kind of power according to the Sidereal hardback. The Loom was actually an incredibly difficult and imprecise tool to use for locating anything smaller than a full-scale Biblical disaster.

wheloc:
Likewise, a story about amassing great wealth on the mortal plan is somewhat lessened if you learn that any mid-ranked celestial bureaucrat could buy and sell you 10 times over because the wealth of heaven was so much greater than that of earth. In fact a god of wealth could snap his fingers and you’d be a pauper overnight.

So sure, how reality really works is not something you have to worry about for a splatbook or two 😉

Holden:
Or ever. Even the most widgety of the second-stringers, the Alchemicals, come from a setting that is primarily concerned with issues of faith and dogma as constructive or destructive forces/tools. Having a machinegun crossbow arm was just a cool bit of visual flash.

(Van Helsing-style machinegun crossbows with enough oomph to punch through armor are physically impossible, by the by.)

To the extent that Exalted: the Sidereals spent time going “how does reality REALLY work?” — Well, it was an exercise that mostly just did damage to the Sidereals as a concept, in retrospect, putting front-and-center a bunch of questions the game had to chew off various pieces of its own anatomy in the course of trying to answer.

Solarious:
A simple fight or a heist, even a big one, is not really going to be a fate-altering event. Such events happen every day in Creation. I would definitely increase the qualifications you’re using to describe a ‘fate-altering act’; say, stealing the Scepter of Peace and Order from the Perfect of Paragon, drastically changing the long-term future of a fixture in Southern politics, or a military battle on the scale of the Battle of Futile Blood. These events change the underlying assumptions of the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Irked:
Well, it’s not just “a big fight” – it’s a big fight where Exalted Charms are used to cause things to happen that otherwise wouldn’t. Those are a little less common.

In any event, whether or not those would be sensible threshold actions, they’re rather more stringent than the ones the book itself gives. Which segues into…

Solarious:
Well, this are the same book that gave us rules that turned fate-altering charms into fancy illusions, used copy-paste from the 1E books with the serial numbers filed off, turned routine destiny-alteration into a joke, and turned parts of the process of weaving destiny into celestial crime for some reason. I wouldn’t use any of the printed rules to defend any of the assumptions the book made.

Irked:
To be clear, I’m in no way trying to answer the question, “What should the rules for detecting Solars in the Loom be?” – that’s a coulda/woulda/shoulda debate I’m staying out of. I’m just trying to address a factual issue: what are the rules in MoEP:Sids?

Holden:
I don’t tend to care what the 2e hardback had to say about anything, as a LOT of that book was very, very obviously written by people who understood little about Sidereals beyond years of negative forum posts and weren’t interested in doing the background reading to deepen said understanding. The online echo chamber did a LOT to shape/ruin that book.

(Normally I try not to be that publicly negative when I disagree with my co-workers, but given that the person most consistently responsible for doing that to the book is on Onyx Path’s do-not-hire list these days, eh. No, I won’t give names.)


Prometheus878:
Setting question:

Please refresh my memory. What is the ^general in-universe to a character revealing themselves as a genuine sorcerer? Spirits and Exalts included.

Reaction 1
Sorcerer: “I am… a sorcerer!”
Person: “Yeah, sure, whatever.”

Reaction 2
Sorcerer: “I am… a sorcerer!”
Person: “Wow! Neat!”

Reaction 3
Sorcerer: “I am… a sorcerer!”
Person: *GASP!* *runs away*

^Specific reaction is specific.

Holden:
Exceedingly careful politeness is the usual response, just as you would likely do in real life if you suddenly found yourself face-to-face with someone who could leave you pissing scorpions for the rest of your days if you annoyed them.


Matt.Ceb:
I think the way you think about Solars is as weird to other as my way of thinking about Jedi in Star Wars roleplaying.

Coikzer:
Yes, I know I’m an Exalted heretic. I keep at it because I am both stupid and stubborn.

Matt.Ceb:
And, well, yeah. It’s hypocritical, but I’d rather tone down and “nerf” every other splat than to devalue Solars.

Coikzer:
And to me that seems like complete, utter, pants-on-head-small-animal-tormenting madness. Solars are 1/7th of the playable Exalt types; that worsens to 1/10th in 3e, and that’s just counting the Exalts we know about, as I’m pretty sure there’s one or two yet that haven’t been revealed. It seems utterly INCONCEIVABLE to me that someone could legitimately argue that so much of the game has to be chained in “Yes, but it has to be obviously worse than Solars.”

(And that’s not even counting non-Exalted playable options like Fair Folk or heroic mortals)

I mean, if you’re going to do that, you might as well get involved in a land war in Asia, invade Russia in the winter, and go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line immediately afterwords.

To put it more succinctly and crudely: to hell with Solars. I don’t see why in the blue fuckballs hell they should be weighted more heavily against the entire rest of the game.

Holden:
Largely because, much as I love them, every single other playable option in the game aside from Solars and Dragon-Blooded are value-adds. They are to Exalted as the Fera are to Werewolf, or the Sabbat were to Vampire: the Masquerade. Yes, we think they’re cool. Yes, you can even play them if you like, we’ll give you robust support for it. It’s still, end of the day, a game about werewolves where we were kind enough to also give you the option for were-hyenas and were-sharks. Their first and foremost purpose will always be as supporting cast for the focal actors of the setting.

ADamiani:
I tend to look at Solars more like Vampires in the OWoD– sure, they were first, and they’re most popular, but they basically don’t show up more than occasionally when I run Mage or Wraith. I don’t dislike them, they’re just not that interesting or important to me, and I don’t really want a setting/system that goes out of its way to emphasize their centrality. It’s certainly disappointing to see you taking the alternate view.

Holden:
Vampire, Mage, and Wraith are separate games. Exalted: the [Not-Solars] and Manual of Exalted Power: [Not-Solars] are supplements. It’s not an alternate view. It’s the only one that’s ever been put forth in print.

Matt.Ceb:
Waaaaaay at the start of the KS, someone (Holden and hatewheel?) shared that “Single Splat, most often Solars” was by far the most common way groups of players interacted with (aka: Played) both Exalted editions. (And, well, my own group was like that, too. We only had Solars and one or two Abyssals as PCs in over eight years of Exalted spread over both editions…)

Holden:
I would estimate that something on the order of 60% of Exalted games are all-Solar, and that of the remaining stuff, something like 50% are “all Solars, except for one Lunar or Abyssal,” followed up by all-Dragon-Blooded, followed up by every other way the game can be played. Obviously nobody has ever done or can ever do a truly scientific study, but this is best-case estimate based on talking to hundreds of groups over the years and paying close attention every time someone ran a poll on a forum since 2003.

Ghosthead:
@CodeBreaker and Iozz, power balance and rules depth both sound quite likely as influencing factors. The combination of having a minority preference (which can feel really good and individual, or quite isolating), plus being weaker and what comes with that, plus introducing a set of new rules to you game if you play an unusual splat might be a killer, all together.

It might just be that the highly differentiated power and rules sets between splats that Exalted goes for just does not work that well in terms of getting an audience to play them, as much as most long term fans adore it, and everyone loves that in theory the game has all these different, well developed character types. (Prediction here would be that the splats played would get a *lot* more diverse among some set of gamers who chose to play the setting with a lighter rules alternative and a fast and loose approach to splat power, and maybe a niche in the market for a game that took this approach as standard).

@Gaius, I definitely think there’s a virtue in having lots of splats, even when they’re not played, for similiar reasons to you. I do still have to wonder what is the point of diminishing returns though, as much as I appreciate the ideas in keeping it fresh…

@Nexus, yeah, thanks, in terms of accessibility for Solars I think everyone who likes any kind of movies can understand why the Solars appeal as heroes (even people who do not have them as favourites). Far as I can tell, and speaking for myself, people tend to get turned off them is a combination of factors of not buying the whole King Arthur deal (just responding to it, on an intuitive level, with a contrarian, “Yeah, right. Sure. That’s how things happen. Shiny chosen ones just turn up and save the day with their charisma and skills, just in the nick of time. Seems legit.”) and/or just finding them not that interesting when so many games do a quite similar type of incredibly skilled heroes well, compared to the other, more strangely magical heroes.

It’s just surprising to me that the others are so underplayed! This is White Wolf, who are supposed to be so good at selling people the experience of being strange, supernatural infused humans that they’ve become a huge presence in roleplaying (to the extent huge can be a valid adjective here) managing to convince people to play what are iconic, yet pretty strange “heroes”. And in some instances, when it comes down to it heroes who are actually pretty repulsive people, harder sells on the squick factor than, say, the Lunars. And so much of the writing in Exalted for the fatsplats seems so tight. So it’s like, what gives and Exalted seems to be actually failing to get people to play anyone except for the Solars on a wide scale?

Holden:
Failure is relative. It’s worth keeping in mind that relative to say, Wraith, or Promethean, or even Hunter (either version), on average, not a lot of people just stuck Exalted on their shelf and let it gather dust. People play the shit out of Exalted. They play it, and then their game wraps up or crashes or whatever and they go start another game and make a new character and play it again and then that folds and they start over and they play it some more. (This is something that informed the design of EX3, as far as that goes. We were intentionally designing something that was supposed to stand up to 10 years of constant, rigorous play.) And Exalted is a very popular RPG. Only like 7% of the player base ever making an Alchemical is still a LOT of Alchemical play. The only fat-splat that ever really bombed were the Fair Folk.

Ghosthead:
Thanks. True, failure’s a bit of a loaded term / perspective. And different playable splats adding replayability (if I’m understanding that right) from a different perspective makes sense.

Holden:
They add a lot of things. Replayability. Expanded appeal (some people, as we have seen, don’t care for Solars but LOVE some other thing, and most of the things in Exalted have historically gotten super-robust support for play so that doesn’t feel as marginal as being a Bastet or– god help you– Nagah fan or whatever). More robust antagonists. Richer setting. The fact that you could boil most of the other Exalts out and still have a really good, fully coherent game doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. Hell, Star Wars would have hung together just fine without Jabba the Hutt, but God what a shame it would have been to lose him.

Ghosthead:
Hopefully my last comment on this (because it’s Ask the Devs and not “Indulge yourself in tangential pedantry”), I would see it more as trying to imagine Star Wars without most of the immediate supporting cast to Luke: Leia, Han, Vader, Chewbacca. For the sake of argument leave in Obi Wan and droids. Just in terms of the wordcount/screentime and the amount of agency they have within the world.

It’s kind of hard to imagine how it even makes sense as the Star Wars trilogy, even though you could do the basic arc of “Farmboy learns he has amazing mystical gifts; becomes mysterious magical knight guy; ultimately defeats emperor of galaxy” in a fairly minimal way.

It would be so different, it seems, like, impossible to know if it would even be near as popular at all, even it certainly could be a movie, and you’d probably expect it to be more successful than a Luke-less Star Wars where other characters have to step up to fill a lot of his shoes (because likely fewer people care about sci fi rogues and tough princesses than sci fi squires turned knights).

Holden:
Star Wars wouldn’t work with the whole cast plus the villain chopped out. Exalted is a game that experienced a meteoric rise to dizzying popularity and had people playing the shit out of it during the year when there was no play support for anything but all Solar and all Dragon-Blooded games (and it was going gangbusters before Dragon-Blooded had full support, too). Apples and tires: not the same thing.


Ekorren:
Question for the devs.

Let’s say I want a society in Creation to apply trial by combat to prove the innocence/guilt of someone. Would you say that it would be more a matter of resources (i.e. affording the best fighter) or would there actually be specific “trial gods” buffing fighters to give a just outcome (and thus make a trial by combat “true” for that society).

I understand that it’s up to me as Storyteller how to deal with this, but what is the writers’ take on these kinds of gods and trials, how common would they be in Creation, and how “just” would such a trial be if actual gods get involved?

Holden:
Things in societies tend to serve a purpose, so it’s good to ask who benefits from skilled fighters (or those with access to the most skilled fighters to act as seconds) being difficult to convict of serious crimes, and then craft the framework accordingly.


Bersagliere Gonzo:
Are Hybrocs included in the core?

Vance:
Couldn’t fit them in, because there were a whole lot of other big flying things in the animal section already and it was preposterously over wordcount.

Upshot is, having all the other fliers there should make coming up with hybroc stats on the fly a breeze.


Wuse_Major:
If you could run or play in an Exalted 3e game, what is the name of the location you would most want the game to be set in?

Vance:
Ysyr.


Tricksy and False:
I’m curious about the RPG gaming preferences of the folks who are working on 3E. Individually, when you play an RPG, do you prefer to GM, prefer to play a PC, prefer a GM-less system, or have no preference?

Holden:
Play. I usually end up having to run, though.


Winwaar:
I have a thought and a question. It seems to me that the Lookshyans must have some minimal tolerance/acceptance of the Hundred Gods Heresy, or at least acknowledge that if they fight amongst themselves within the River Province, the Realm will likely swoop down on the Province as quickly as it can. The basis for this is my understanding (though I’m not 100% certain) that Great Forks is a part of the Province. That said, it may be that Great Forks isn’t part of the Province, but just the Scavenger Lands (for, as I recall, they’re different things now).

So, I suppose where I’m going with this is the question “How hard does Lookshy try to repress the Hundred Gods Heresy?” Because while I know that the Immaculate faith they follow means that they probably disapprove of such things, I’m wondering how much they allow political expediency to rule them on this matter. This is in stark contrast, I imagine, to the Wyld Hunt and the duties of all Dragon-Blooded thereto, as I believe the Lookshyans are going to be just as vigorous as they can be about Anathema-hunting.

Holden:
This is an issue explicitly talked about in the upcoming Dragon-Blooded: What Fire Has Wrought.


Anu:
What’s your favourite Solar Caste?

Vance:
Between sorcery and Lore it is going to be very hard for me not to be a Twilight. Night’s are in 2nd place.

Holden:
Eclipse 4 life


Lea:
Writing is hard.

When writing in-character material that efficiently conveys a great deal of information quickly to an out-of-characer viewpoint, it’s very, very easy for the in-character voice to come off as an affectation that grates on the level of “As you know…” exposition in a movie or television, and very, very hard for it not to. Like, people in-setting writing verisimilarly would naturally make a lot of assumptions about what their readers know already that you can’t make when you’re writing to an audience of Exalted newbies. Whenever the opening fiction of a Vampire book takes a moment to have one character explain to another character how clans and covenants work, I want to tear my eyeballs out.

So don’t do that.

Do not, do not write an in-character piece. Just accept that you’re writing something for the game audience, and include occasional “What people in the setting know about this” asides. Like, this is how gods work, here’s how people in the setting tend to think they work, here’s how the Immaculate Order works, here’s how people in the setting think of it. If you’re good you can do it in a couple of sentences.

AliasiSudonomo:
The thing is, I really love in-character pieces, when they aren’t the sole source of information but intended to show how people in the setting approach it. I’ve had way too many games of Exalted with people acting very blase’ towards raksha doing weird fae things (when their IC background doesn’t indicate they’d be unfazed), or making the running gag of Gem’s destruction some kind of IC assumption, or act mystified when they play a ‘good’ Infernal who nonetheless gets a Wyld Hunt called down on them.

Lea:
In-character documents can be great, especially for the purpose you describe! But creating an in-character document that’s also brief and also comprehensive and also targets newbies while seeking to be informative rather than tantalizing is very difficult, verging on impossible in some contexts.

Like, if you want to play to the strengths of the medium, an in-character document should obviously be written from the perspective of one fictional character attempting to accomplish some purpose, possibly communicating directly to a second fictional character, and should contain only information that would be in-character for the first character to put down. This will, typically, not include all the information an outside reader would need to contextualize everything the document says.

If you want to write an in-character document that whets readers’ appetites for setting info, that’s great. Absolutely do that. If you want to write an in-character document that serves primarily to actually provide a full summary of all newbies need to know to grok the setting, I must advise against.

Holden:
Yeah. This is tough enough when it’s a primer on a secret society nobody knows about. When it’s supposed to be a primer on the world both characters have lived in all their lives? Haha good luck.

Lea:
That said, you could adapt Jenna’s approach to microfic in Nobilis as to present snippets of in-character documentation as a companion to a larger out-of-character description. Though this can get cheesy and obnoxious really quickly (exhibit A: Planescape).

Gareth3:
The primer on Creation sounds like an interesting project. I agree it should be out-of-character. One important question is what you should leave out, to keep the length reasonable. Personally, I’d leave out:
Autochthon, Autochthonia and the Mountain Folk.

Holden:
Totally unimportant and ancillary. Yep, leave out.

Gareth3:
Sidereals, Yu-Shan, and the Games of Divinity. Gods themselves are still in.

Holden:
Sidereals are the conspiracy-masters behind your character’s downfall and ultimately are both at the root of your back-story AND they are the easiest story-hook to bring a group of Solars together today. You leave them in. The other stuff, omit.

Gareth3:
Primordials, Yozis, Malfeas, and Infernals. Demons are OK.

Holden:
You give the Yozis one vague line as the enemies of the gods the Exalted overthrew as their first feat of heroism. Everything else, omit.

Gareth3:
Neverborn, Deathlords, and Abyssals. The Underworld itself should be mentioned, as it’s so easy to get there.

Holden:
Backwards. Deathlords and Abyssals are awesome, enticing threats. You mention them, in no especial detail. Likewise, they are “lords of the Underworld.” None of that needs explained tho.

Gareth3:
Dragon Kings, Liminals, Getimians, and Exigents. No problem with these, they’re just not central enough to the setting.

Holden:
Yeah leave them out. Exigents are important but you can work them in later once the player understands the setting / cares.

Lea:
I think “An easily-photocopied two page cheat sheet meant to introduce new players to the setting as a whole” and “An easily-photocopied two page cheat sheet meant to introduce players to how the average person in Creation thinks about Creation” are significantly different projects with significantly different needs. Once we brought up “Should it be in-character?” we moved the discussion firmly into the realm of the latter, which probably needs Ancestor Cult way more than it needs e.g. Deathlords.

(I also think the latter benefits way more from being an easily-photocopied two page cheat sheet, since the former is a function of everything the player picks up while learning about the game but the latter is something people benefit from having laid out in front of them when they’re making a character.)


Holden:
The only fat-splat that ever really bombed were the Fair Folk.

JetstreamGW:
I am… not surprised about that. I tried to integrate them into a game I was running in 2nd edition and… they hurt me. So very much. Which made me super sad ‘cuz I love fae and I desperately wanted to use them a whole bunch. But their whole writeup made Paradigm look simple and intuitive.

Is there anything you can say about Fairies in 3rd? Anything that will reassure me that their abilities and such won’t make my brain go into hiding?

Holden:
Their play/power structure will be significantly less complex.


Prometheus878:
I can’t believe I didn’t think to ask this until now.

Do kegs of firedust create huge explosions of fire and force when set aflame?

This is mission critical, people.

Lea:
Firedust isn’t classified in a manner such that you can logically extrapolate behaviors out of it that are other than how it’s portrayed, i.e. “Small-scale personal flamethrowers, very large cannons, potentially bombs or grendades that mostly set stuff on fire.” So, uh, would something that behaves the way I just describe be classified as a high or low explosive? If so, there you go.

(I’m not a dev.)

Holden:
Yeah. Firedust produces a lot more heat than force compared to gunpowder, which is why you don’t have regular cannons or pistols in Exalted, but if you get enough of it you can do some serious concussive damage– the shore cannons of Chiaroscuro can lob a cannonball about a mile out to sea. They’re also about the size of a house, which is the scale you need to work at before firedust manages to operate as substitute black powder.

ADamiani:
Man. Given the cost of the stuff, that’s got to be like almost literally burning money.

Holden:
Still not as expensive as the ship you just one-shotted half a mile out in the harbor, nor as expensive as the docks getting sacked.

But yes, they’re dreadfully expensive contraptions.

ADamiani:
Hm!
Fair enough, assuming you hit. What’s the accuracy like at that range?

Are they able to assume Dragonblooded gunners, and thus superhuman aim?

Holden:
Fantastic accuracy, considering they’d have artillery tables printed right next to each cannon.


MuscaDomestica:
Quick question about sorcerous workings. I see that they are unique effects that characters can build that can change individuals and the world around them, Could this be a way to make amazing food for the Solar Chef character?

Vance:
If you want to bake an apple pie of immortality, I guess?

If you want to prepare a banquet fit for a king or recreate an ancient recipe to curry the favor of a god with a hankering for it, though, that’s just being good at your Craft.


Wuse_Major:
When it comes time to do the index, is that going to be a similar level of trouble? More? Is it something you can automate part of? I really don’t know the programs you guys are using for this.

Holden:
I believe that’s something that a professional indexer does. It’s certainly not something I have any idea how to do.


Holden:
Ahhhh, credit for the layout is all Rich and Maria, whose design wizardry is beyond my humble comprehension. I’m super happy with it, though. The book is gorgeous.

On the design end though, the book is also good. It’s not perfect– give us another three years to iterate if you want that– but it plays as well as anything this hobby has ever seen, I think, and it really delivers Exalted in a way neither of the previous editions did. A lot of that is down to John’s Charm set and the core system he laid out and that Vance and I then assembled. I really can’t wait for people to see it, which should happen very soon now*.

*Unto the very end, I give no specific projections. It’s down to Maria implementing the XXs and CCP’s approval, but I know that implementing all those XXs is going to be a murderous mind-numbing time-eater. The CCP approval should be fast, anyway, I hope. Aside from catching a typo and amending one sentence of a Charm, the text of this version won’t be any different from the last one they reviewed.


Brian888:
If you don’t mind the question, do you have any rough estimates for when Arms of the Chosen will hit once the core book is finished?

Holden:
It’s probably going to be a year at least before I give estimates on anything. I’ve developed a twitch in response to the word.

Wuse_Major:
Do you mind if we ask how the DB charmset is progressing then? Because that seems like the next big mechanical hurdle that could require several iterations before becoming “perfect” and thus seems like it might be hard to budget for, timewise.

Holden:
We’ve done some iterating on it before arriving at a paradigm we’re very happy with. Going to be hands-down the best DB set so far. Reviewing Archery Charms today.

Molez:
Pretty much everything other than the core shows as being in 2nd draft territory (as opposed to Development) at the moment on the Monday Meeting notes, is that accurate?

Holden:
It’s mostly heading toward third drafts, but not there yet.


Snowy:
I really want to play a Birthright type game with players building up a nation/empire out of ruins and wilderness. Without a framework to hang their projects off its not going to be as good.

Vance:
I have sort of a unique perspective on this, both because I ran a 7-year empire-building game and because I wrote the Legacy System of bureaucracy rules that was excluded from the core. Speaking from experience, I think you’re going to be better served by what the game gives you than by Creation-Ruling Mandate 2.0.

Uqbarian:
Ooh! Any idea whether these rules might see the light of day in a supplement?

Vance:
If the devs find a place where it makes sense, I’ve still got it, and it hasn’t been obsoleted by any of the multiple of dozens of versions of the core system that went by since it was written.

I’m not sure how likely that is, though.

Gaius of Xor:
I’m confused by people assuming that Bureaucracy will be a big blob of nothing. We got a couple of Bureaucracy Charms teased in a Kickstarter Update. We’ve been told directly that there will be support for leadership and “Kingmaker” style games, which will not be a CRM-like mini-game, and… that’s about it. I don’t read “therefore, nothing but hand-waving!” into that so much as “support for that area may take a different shape than originally suspected.”

Vance:
In the Second Edition corebook, there was a bureaucracy system. Jenna wrote charms designed to work with that system. That system got cut. My second-hand knowledge of the chain of events ends there, but we got left with a charmset based on and mechanically hooked into a non-existent system.

This is not an issue Ex3 has.

Holden:
Not actually true.

There was never a Bureaucracy sub-system.

There were never plans for there to be one.

Jenna wrote one (1) Charm which referenced a “Begin Project” action, which, in her mind, was something storytellers could understand based on the basic resolution actions of the rules, as interpreted by 2e’s very formal rules-language. Basically it’s like if she said this Charm triggers off a “Wake Up” action instead of “this Charm activates when the character awakens from sleep.” All it meant was, you use this Charm when you start a project.

This was an edition where being unconscious was a formal action you took every 5 seconds.

Because of the extreme formality of 2e’s rules-structure, everyone went looking for the formal Begin Project action that nobody ever intended to write or thought there was any need to write. And for years after, they pined for that missing Bureaucracy system that someone wrote, but man, it musta got cut.

It not only never existed, it was never supposed to exist. It sure never got cut. It never got CONCEPTUALIZED. If it had, Neph would have had old drafts or ideas and we would not have had to start from scratch when we did the CRM in response to popular demand for Masters of Jade. Like a lot of stuff in 2e, banging that system together convinced me in retrospect that it was servicing a nonexistent need and was an active detriment to the game, because it pulled the scope way the hell away from the game’s larger-than-life heroes. I mean, it contained rules for easily resolving a global trade war between the Guild and the Realm, which is like… Jesus Christ, that’s a whole chronicle right there, or should be.

Wolfwood2:
I guess this is a specific Dev question. Are there any specific mechanical actions for which a Bureaucracy roll is required and for which the system provides details on difficulty and what exactly success gives you?

Holden:
Nope, all of its functions are handled by the basic task-resolution function of the rules, and it doesn’t habitually go head-to-head with another Ability in a way that’s worth clarifying (like Larceny and Investigation, which also both just use basic task-resolution except on those occasions when they lock horns with one another), so it doesn’t have any special sub-rules associated with it. I mean, we could have put in some use-case examples, I suppose, but 1) I already had to lop 80K out of the book so space was at a premium and 2) the Ability description in the traits chapter is pretty clear about what it does*.

*It’s not the “Leadership” Ability, incidentally, just as Socialize is no longer Word War, and Presence will now let you be charismatic at more than one person at a time. EX3 doesn’t have a “Leadership” stat any more than it has “Wisdom” or “Goodness” stats. When the book drops I strongly advise players of previous editions don’t skip past sections thinking “ah I already know how that works” just because the header looks familiar. Lots of things changed.

LordofArcana:
Okay, then how is the poor storyteller supposed to model the 200ish people that my Greatest of Kings needs to interact with on a daily basis to fulfill his character concept? There is a reason why we have battle groups and crowds instead of modeling every soldier or person watching a performance.

Holden:
I advise watching a season or two of The Tudors. It’s what a lot of stuff in the system was built around.

SuperG:
Maybe [the Leadership system] won’t be better than CRM or Red Tide, but “not even trying” isn’t an improvement either.

ADamiani:
I mean, the reason I’d like good rules to be put out is because there aren’t any, you know?
It…. kinda is.
I mean, bad rules are worse than dead weight, they actively make the game harder to run, and get in the way of the stuff the game is supposed to be about.

To the extent that it’s about ruling kingdoms, it’s about larger than life figures running kingdoms and interacting with each-other on a dramatic level, rather than engaging in a minigame overly that abstracts those interactions and conflicts– ie, an operatic or soap-operatic view of history, rather than a strategy game perspective.

I’m hoping the resources they fight over have enough weight to give them a reason to fight over them (ie, armies and resources should mean something), and I hope there’s enough bureaucracy support that players can take it and not feel slighted. But Exalted is so invested in great *individuals* that it’s probably not the best game to support elaborate kingdom simulation.

Lea:
That’s half of it. It also about larger than life figures running kingdoms and interacting with their subordinates on a dramatic level, dealing with decisions like “I really want that guy to do the thing, but even though he’s my guy he wants my help with another thing” and “I really want this thing done, but it’s super-dangerous and the best guy to send to do it is really dear to me and he might die” or “Turns out my my best guy did something really, really bad years ago, and the people he wronged are now at my doorstep demanding justice, and I really can’t deny it to them without being the world’s biggest asshole but they want to kill him” or even the basic “Two guys whose support I need want stuff in return and that’d be fine if what they wanted weren’t mutually exclusive.” Those sorts of things tend to abstract away when you bring CRM-like systems into the picture. You can’t run The West Wing if it’s just Bartlet making decisions and everyone under him does what he says right away and the only people he deals with as people are, I dunno, PM of England and Putin in Russia.

Uqbarian:
That depends a whole lot on how the system is set up and how it’s being applied, so much so that I feel like you’ve excluded a middle or something.

Anu:
There isn’t. As in, I had a conversation on this exact topic with my doctoral committee during my thesis proposal defense. It’s the reason why my thesis proposal wasn’t accepted.

Macroscale approaches focus on organizations and don’t consider individual social actors. Microscale approaches focus on how social actors interact with each other. They’re not compatible. Just the language they use is completely different.

If you wanted to mechanize organizations, you’d need to have two completely separate mechanics; one where characters engage in bureaucratic activities, and one where the players play organizations. Even if the developers had the word count to make two different sets of bureaucracy rules and add new charms for both sets of rules, the organizational rules could not be a roleplaying mechanic because there is no way for it to allow the PCs to play their individual roles. Exalted, being a roleplaying game, must not have mechanics that are not conducive to roleplaying.

Irked:
At the level of formal, predictive mathematics like we actually want to use in the real world, I’m happy to take that as true – you obviously have experience there. But, I mean… games do cross the macro/micro border at a level of resolution that works for an RPG. Weapons of the Gods did it with the Great Game; Reign, from what I understand, is premised around doing it. Other folks have cited examples from D&D that apparently work, though I have no personal exposure to those. What are these things, from your perspective?

Holden:
The One Ring apparently has an incredibly deep and satisfying set of travel mechanics. That’s a sane and rational (and pretty clever!) decision for TOR; travelogue passages are one of the biggest features of Tolkien’s Middle Earth stories. Exalted has pretty vestigial travel rules, because “how to get from Point A to Point B” is just not a big deal for a game where the standard starting party may very easily be able to summon a magic tornado that carries them to their destination at the speed of a sports car. It’s not nothing, but it’s not a point of focal emphasis worth much more than “Roll Intelligence + Survival to stay on course as you make your way through the jungle.”

Exalted also has very different ideas of what it wants to emphasize about the difficulties of leadership compared to Reign or Birthright.

Lea:
Ironically this points to Mandate of Heaven being the ideal model.

Holden:
It’s a pretty great model except that everyone unanimously decided it was too much hassle for too little return.

Lea:
The flowery jargon probably didn’t help that.

Solar:
Is there a possibility that, in the future (if there was suitable call for it) a more in depth system than one that you guys think is appropriate for the core could be introduced in a later book? I can definitely understand where you are coming from, but a “okay, want something heavier? Here you go” system would be appreciated I think.

Holden:
No. Like I said, we had a pretty good one (in fact, we tried several different models of varying complexity), and we pulled it out because after messing with it for a while, we realized that having something serving that function detracted from how we wanted the game to work.

Blaque:
Let’s put it this way: What does such a system need to do for folks? Sof ar it seems to include:

1) Some form of plot-generator. A way that the game can abstract people away so that the ST doesn’t have to do it.

Holden:
Mandate of Heaven was actually quite good at this, based on my messing around with it. The problem is that it required a lot of work and almost everyone ended up preferring to have the Storyteller come up with stuff on his own, as they’ve been doing since the days of Gary Gygax’s garage.

Blaque:
2) Some form of using people-as-force system. A way that by having some control of people, a player can maybe exert additional power not available to them on their own or through their own means. Or in another way to put it, a way to quantify the “power” of a group a player has.

Holden:
Merits tend to handle this better than something that universally abstracts all possible uses of people into a single continuum, is what I discovered.

Blaque:
3) Some sort of “project system” that has quantified rolls, rules and such that the ST doesn’t need to fiat, that can be univerally applied and interacted with by the system.

Holden:
I have become intensely wary of rules-for-the-sake-of-rules as time has gone on and I’ve gotten more experience with game design. Rules need to serve a purpose that is meaningful and necessary.

ADamiani:
The touchstones that Holden and StephenLS have given are The Tudors or The West Wing. If you want a game that feels like that, the interaction has to focus on that level– you need to persuade the papacy to annul your marriage to Catherine of Aragon and/or find some other legal pretext to dissolve the union; you need to persuade the ecumenical synod to back your new church (and deal with religious holdouts like your otherwise loyal Chancellor); you need to convince the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee to allow a vote on your bill so you can get funding on the program you promised the Minority Leader in return for his support on a more important issue.

If the basic way these things get done is to engage the Bureaucracy subsystem, taking the “Reform Religion,” “Obtain Diplomatic Concession,” or “Pass New Policy” actions, these things don’t happen (or, rather, the system isn’t facilitating their occurrence) because you’ve moved to a level of abstraction to a point where individuals are no longer the central actors. That log-rolling stuff with the Chairman doesn’t happen, and neither does the legal wrangling to legitimize the Church of England.

It’s less a question of “should Exalted be a game about changing the world on a grand scale?” and more “How should Exalted represent these kinds of actions?”

Holden:
This post sums up the matter very well.

Anu:
I guess you could have a set of rules where the PCs ask for the priest cartel to offer up some prayers to the local gods, and then the ST rolls to see how successful the organization is at meeting the demand, but 1) that’s just adding a roll for the sake of it, 2) the PCs have already succeeded – unless there’s some sort of problem that they missed and that they could have avoided with further investigation or something – so adding another barrier to their success is a dick move, and 3) the PCs would have no way to interact with that mechanic, so you’d have to dedicate word count to a mechanic that only exists for the ST and systematically excludes the PCs. I’m fairly certain that would be considered a bad design decision even if you had infinite word count to write with.

Holden:
Or you could do what the CRM did, which is make the entire organizational apparatus basically a vehicle the PC drives with their dice pool. Which was one of the biggest problems with the CRM– the fact that a Solar could swing 20 dice into a roll was a MUCH bigger factor on how that system worked than anything to do with the organization itself.

Uqbarian:
Though to some extent that fits well with the themes of Solars as lawgivers, god-kings, shapers of the fates of nations etc.

Holden:
It really just said that the entire setting was paper blowing in the wind, reinforcing the 2e feel of “the Solars live in a world of shadows and irrelevancies in which only they and Cthulhu are relevant focal points” that we are trying very hard to move away from. An organization-leadership system should not be saying “this organization is irrelevant.”

LordofArcana:
One concern I have about encouraging the Storyteller to encourage pc leaders to interact with npc ministers/secretaries/generals/etc. is that while it is pretty easy to break that down to the 20 or so people who control the various important functions of your government and/or oppose your policies (though I hope you don’t decide to have some kind of Senate, because that’ll make things absurd), the other players might not be interested in this.

The issue seems similar to 2nd ed crafters, where one pc requires vastly more of a particular resource than the other players (in-game time in the case of crafters) to do what they need to in order to feel valuable. Do you feel that a pc ruler should spend at least a scene on the implementation of any particular policy? If so I feel like there wouldn’t have much patience for just sitting there while the ruler resolves an argument between their chancellor and their steward about whether the country should start logging in a minor terrestial court’s land.

The obvious solution to that is to resolve that scene quickly and quickly move onto another where the pcs persuade/threaten the spirits’ court to accept such logging, possibly in exchange for other considerations. However now instead of having one scene directed towards the ruler’s interests, we now have two.

Unless I’m missing something, it seems like such a character necessarily warps the game around themselves in a way that a crafter, sorcerer, warrior, or even diplomat won’t. Am I making too much of player envy? If this is occurring as a development of the character’s own actions, that certainly is one thing, but it feels different to me when one player starts off by saying that the game should pay the most attention to their agenda.

Holden:
I do not see this being an issue. I think any table where this is potentially a serious issue is probably not equipped to run a game successfully period and will encounter numerous other failure states before they hit that one.

Solar:
This seems massively unfair. The problem of certain types of characters demanding more time from the GM to sit and work through their stuff in a way other characters aren’t involved in has absolutely existed in the past and suggesting that if you encounter it here it’s because you’re a shit group who can’t play a game to save their lives (in essence) is hardly a reasonable one.

Holden:
“Sometimes there are social scenes at court” is not a daunting challenge for a roleplaying game.

Solar:
No, but “some player concepts demand a larger amount of time from the group and GM than others due to the mechanics” can be a challenge for any group, and is something we’ve seen before, in this very game line. I don’t necessarily see that it will be the case here, but I can also see that it could be too.

Holden:
No. I’ve indulged a lot of wild conjecture in this thread, but no. “Sometimes there are social scenes at court” is not the Decker Problem.


LordofArcana:
Some questions for the Devs: what does it mean to you to play a god-king? Is it common for Solar Exalted to become such?

Holden:
A ruler who is worshiped. Not unusual for Solars.


Brian888:
A search online suggested that Tyrant Lizards average around 20-30 meters in height. That’s about 3 times bigger than T-Rex ever was. For what’s supposed to be the scariest “natural” animal in the book, I rather like that.

Lea:
Tyrant lizards do not average 20-30 meters in height.

Holden:
That’s like twice the size of a Gundam. That’s… no. It’s a T-Rex.


Wuse_Major:
Oh, I wanted to ask the Devs/Writers something. If I wanted to review the Realm in preparation for the 3e treatment of it, what would you recommend: reading 1e’s DB book, reading 2e’s Realm Book, reading 2e’s DB book, some combination of the previous, or has it changed enough that I’m better off just waiting until the 3e books drop?

Holden:
1e for the culture stuff. The Blessed Isle itself, geographically, is basically brand-new, and I wouldn’t look to either former edition for that. (Remember what was so cool about Eagle’s Launch in previous editions? … Yeah, me either.)


sakii:
So going to the sea, what is good source material for stories of naval warfare and voyages by sea?

Holden:
I’m a fan of the Master and Commander series by Patrick O’Brian.

Wolfwood2:
Though of course warfare on Master and Commander is heavily dependent on cannons, so that’s a little less relevant to the Exalted context. Without a reliable and repeatable ranged shipboard weapon, it’s pretty hard to stop a ship out on the open ocean. Which explains why it’s considered so much safer than land travel despite storms and starvation, I guess.

Holden:
Yep, but hard to beat for atmosphere. Also, Twilights are a reliable and repeatable shipboard weapon!


nexus:
Another question about the new charms that were added in the final revisions: What was the biggest reason for adding more?

Holden:
Saw a need for ’em.

nexus:
Also: Any chance of seeing a full sized Scroll of Swallowed Darkness this time around (maybe it could be called Red Rule Codex)?

Holden:
Definitely not.


Anu:
What kind of armies/battle groups do you have statted in the corebook? Random bandits? Standard Nexus mercs? Marukani cavalry? Zombie horde? All of the above?

Vance:
The way battle groups system doesn’t really require statting armies up separately. An ambush of bandits? Look at the bandit stat block, look at battle groups. Ahlat’s honor guard? Bride of Ahlat stat block, battle groups. A, god help you, dread legion of nephwracks? Nephwrack stat block, battle groups, pray for mercy.

Holden:
All of the above and more. Very easy to whip up whatever you want by just tossing a slight tweak or so on the array provided.

MadLetter:
Another question to holden or anyone that might know it: Do we have a full stat-block for a Battlegroup somewhere spoilered? Preferrably not from the leak. I am considering right now to whip up a basic “Battlegroup Combat Sheet” and would love to know what stats need to be there so I can start with a general layout until the final rules are present

Holden:
It’s basically just a Quick Character with three extra stats.


Brian888:
Now that Solars are (presumably) pretty much wrapped-up in terms of development, what’s the next Exalt type that you really can’t wait to start working on, and why?

Holden:
Exigents. They’re a “go crazy” project. Always love those.


MadLetter:
In that case a simple question for a bored Holden, if that is something he can answer: Are you guys (the devs in general) okay with stuff like Charm Cascades being created by the fans? I intend to re-do my Charm Trees of 2nd Edition, where you have all Charms and how they are connected on a page, each with a short description that doesn’t go into mechanical details to prevent people from trying to decipher the charms fully without owning the book.

It’s intended to be an aid for players and GM’s alike to quickly get a very basic overview of the Charms in any given Ability. Example here: link

Is that something you as devs condone/are okay with or something you’d rather not see, and if so – why?

Holden:
I’m not the IP owner so legally speaking my opinion is kinda irrelevant.

Personally, I think players and Storytellers producing tools to make games easier or more fun to run and passing them around in the community is one of the great things about there being an RPG community period.

MadLetter:
Another question, though something like this may have come up before: How many soldiers can a Dawn-caste general start with if he is willing to sacrifice a fair bit of his starting budget? A long-standing character awaits realization in third edition and he may have a whole lot of soldiers at his side. Question is what’s possible, generally speaking?

Holden:
Thousands. Go forth and conquer! (Preferably in concert with someone who can attract more recruits because you will lose dudes along the way.)


Dulahan:
OK, a genuinely serious question for when this does land…

How work safe is the art?

My workplace is generous on our use of breaktime and having things on our computer (We’re free to even take them home and use them for personal use there!), but if it’s not work safe, I still wouldn’t want to be looking at it in my excitement on break or lunch hour!

EDIT: Or if there’s just any sections to avoid in said case if there’s not much that would be NSFW.

Holden:
Pretty safe.

JetstreamGW:
You sure, Holden? White Wolf has a history of surprise boobs.

Holden:
The raciest illustration in the book (by a pretty wide margin) is of a guy.


Wuse_Major:
Holden, once the backer pdf drops, is there anything you’d rather us not discuss? Is it ok to directly quote a paragraph or two from the text as long as we don’t get out of hand or should we confine ourselves to talking about the text without quoting?

I ask because I’m probably going try to contribute info to threads asking for spoilers and I’d rather not do anything wrong, especially given recent events.

Holden:
Go nuts. At that point, it’s your book.


Kremlin KOA:
Here’s a time sensitive question.
I am about to move home.
How do I change the delivery address before the book ships?

Lea:
Go to Kickstarter, go to the full list of your backed projects, and click on “Deluxe Exalted 3rd Edition.” This should bring up a screen for the Exalted KS with three tabs, “Reward:”, “Survey”, and “Message.” Click on Survey. Right at the top of the Survey it’ll have the address you entered, and under that there’s a link to “Edit address.”


Totentanz:
If it isn’t too late, a question for the devs.

Are Sorcery/Necromancy still mechanically similar enough that we could use the Sorcery mechanics in the Core to run Necromany, assuming we updated spells from 2E?

Vance:
You can hack it that way until more solid rules on necromancy are published. The nephwrack in the antagonists chapter uses sorcery and a unique initiation, but it represents necromancy.


Odie:
Who did the intro fiction? I have my suspicions…

Lea:
Yeah, that was Jenna.


Shadowrender:
Also, is that the cover? I’m not familiar with the Exalted art direction but on first sight I think it’s really, really ugly.

EDIT: Just got it, It is the cover. Oh well, glad I pitched in for the deluxe version because it’s absolutely not to my tastes. The art inside looks great though.

The One Phil:
I believe that’s a temporary cover as the original cover artist did a bunk.

My understanding is they’ve released it with a temporary cover rather than delay the release.

Lea:
I really like the cover art, actually, though I think the cover layout preliminary, like, I assume there’s gonna be a great big Exalted Third Edition logo at the top eventually. I also, and especially, like that the cover art is just Prince Diamond.


jrnmariano:
Maybe I’m missing something but are there any specific “How to Run Exalted” or “How to Create a Chronicle” sections in the PDF?

I found some “ST Tips” while skimming the text but not a full-blown “Storytelling” chapter like previous editions. :/

Holden:
The “how to run” stuff is distributed throughout the rest of the book so you pick it up while learning the rules, rather than segregated into a self-contained chapter.

Exalted 3e: Holden’s Play Prep Checklist

With the Exalted Third Edition backer PDF now available for play, I’m republishing this invaluable Holden post advising players of earlier editions on how to prep for the game. It’s worth rereading!


With the backer PDF just around the corner, I thought it might be useful to make a prep-post with some useful advice for people coming into this with a head full of years of previous edition stuff, to minimize cognitive dissonance. Things to keep in mind:

• Try not to carry in too many assumptions from prior editions, because a lot of stuff has been deliberately thrown out or contradicted.
• System: A lot of stuff has changed. I strongly suggest reading the entire book, especially the parts where your instinct is to go “eh I know how this works,” because that’s probably a part we changed. Anima banners work differently than they used to, for example, and several Abilities changed definitions.
• The first three rules in chapter 5 are the most important, and are to be taken seriously. With wordcount as tight as it was, we didn’t add stuff for no reason.
• Defense is not the same as DV and doesn’t work the same way.
• The system has two kinds of damage rolls. You do get two successes for rolling 10s on one of them, but not the other. This is really easy for 1e/2e players to miss. See above: don’t assume old standards hold.
• Ox-Body is really, really, really good now, even though it doesn’t look very different. I strongly advise taking it on your first character.
• I very strongly advise using normal chargen for the first game you run with the edition, or if you have any new players, rather than the advanced chargen.
• Stunt standards are different. 2 and 3-point stunts are difficult to get and you won’t see them flying around constantly. House-ruling them back to 1e/2e standards is one of the fastest ways to wreck the balance of 3e, so be careful with that.
• Willpower is much harder to get than it used to be, and the system is extensively balanced its scarcity. Again, this is one of the parts of the rules I would advise caution in messing with.
• Combat balance is far more dependent on group tactics than individual character build, and group fights have a completely different logic and balance than one-on-one duels.
• Finally, if something looks weird or you’re not sure why it’s there, give it a try and it will usually become clear. This is a really tough system to predict from nothing but a read-and-eyeball approach, but it hangs together very nicely in play, and is much easier to understand in motion than when examined as a bunch of disconnected pieces.

Firewands, Firearms, and Description through Absence

firewand_by_meluranI’ve seen some worried grumbling from players concerned that Exalted Third Edition’s focus on Bronze Age sword & sorcery thematics will shut down elements of play they desire. This gives the impression that the books will contain sections explicitly forbidding players from inventing gunpowder, devising technology-flavored magical items, building assembly lines for enchanted devices, or other related setting elements. But that’s not how it’s done! Often, the best way to define setting elements is through silence.

For a specific example, let’s look at the presentation of firedust weaponry in Exalted. Firewands—single-shot weapons hurling short gouts of flame—are vaguely akin to muskets in style, but lack the overwhelming effect on military tactics. But they’re not just there for flavor.

The world of Exalted doesn’t allow for gunpowder weaponry. This is because massed rifle formations and the like both deny the thematic importance of individual warrior-heroes in the setting, and invalidate the Bronze Age aesthetic of Creation’s warfare. Thus, the game assumes that gunpowder is not available, and presents no mechanics for firearms, artillery, bombs, and the like.

This also presumes that your PC won’t be the first person ever to invent gunpowder. Let’s set aside the immersion-breaking exceptionalism of such an act in a setting where thousands of other genius savants have experimented with alchemy over the centuries without making the same discovery, as that’s not the real issue. Rather, it completely changes the nature of the game if we presume that natural law in the setting is identical to that of the real world with a layer of magic slathered on top, allowing a PC savant to discover and deploy all the things—gunpowder, C4, weaponized anthrax, plutonium—and use them to steamroll the setting.

Failing to address this in the text can be problematic. Obviously, if your whole gaming group really wants to play out Lest Darkness Fall, more power to you, and an overly didactic sidebar explicitly forbidding your group from doing so is pointless at best and harmful at worst. But if the issue isn’t raised at all, groups divided on the matter need to hash out the details on their own, and can find themselves unexpectedly drifting into an undesirable play experience.

Exalted deftly handles the matter through the introduction of firedust weaponry. By their presence, they point to the absence of firearms without ever using the word “gunpowder.” In filling the aesthetic role of firearms and a similar (albeit significantly more limited) mechanical role, they make it clear that the setting doesn’t use real-world firearms without forcing that fact on the reader. And as an added bonus, they provide a baseline for firearm mechanics for groups who want to hack such things into the rules for their game.

As to what the absence of gunpowder means more broadly for the application of real-world natural laws to fantasy settings, that’s a matter for another blog post.

Another book published!

My author’s copies finally came in! It’s not an Exalted book, nor even related to gaming. But I wrote it, it’s getting published, so I’m posting about it here. 🙂 So if you know anyone in high school who’s interested in a career in biotechnology, buy ’em a copy once it hits the shelves!

I’d like to thank my editor, Amelie von Zumbusch, for doing an incredible job and being a pleasure to work with. Thanks also to my interviewees — Vanessa Borcherding, Doug Darr, Heather Geiger, Christopher Mason, and Elizabeth Waters — for all their help!

biotechbook

Ask Robert Vance!

My fellow Exalted writer Robert Vance (aka “Robbles” or “Exigent of Puppies”) has generously volunteered to be the center of attention and answer questions from you, our many fans! Please post your questions in the comments below, and Vance will do his best to answer once he’s had a nap. As always, understand that we writers can’t provide substantive 3e spoilers.

Vance looks forward to hearing from you. Don’t be shy!