“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.

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