Exalted 3e: The Basic/Major Project Divide


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.



  1. Thanks for the article, good to see some more info on this. I’d actually gone out and researched how long it took to do things like make a sword or a plate helmet (both come out at 1 – 2 weeks).

    Could we get a more expansive list of things that are a basic project? The core lists any battle ready weapons as major – but is a spear, staff, dagger or club a major item?

    If my crafting concept is weaponsmith, what projects am I meant to be doing to get silver XP?

    1. A club or plain wooden staff is basic. A dagger or metal-headed spear is major, though an ST might allow you to make a batch as a single project. A staff with elaborate metal banding or inlay is probably major. A utilitarian knife not meant for combat is basic. This is all based on how much time and effort actually goes into making such an item, not on some in-game code regarding how important or useful the item is.

      Remember that by the rules, you can craft anything that someone with your skill set should be able to craft, with a penalty when it diverges significantly from your normal procedures. This includes all sorts of metalwork, as well as some limited ability with woodwork from making weapon hafts and sword grips, and leatherworking from making scabbards—though the latter two would definitely be at a penalty and preclude elaborate expressions of their arts.

      I’ll work up an additional crafting post or two on these topics over the coming days. Thanks for pointing out the need!

      1. Thanks for the quick responses.

        I’ve got a bunch of players who are excited to play crafters, and I’m very happy about that because it is a play style I like myself – so to have my players run with it is pretty much the best way for me to enjoy it (standard problem of the biggest Exalted fan in the room can’t find someone to ST Exalted for him).

        When planning out a game, I’m pretty sure that at least two of the players who will be doing crafting will want to build to making diaklaves, and I want to have a range of options on hand when walking them through the system (weaponsmith also feels like it might be the most common craft for people to push towards)? For most other versions of a crafter, I can come up with a bunch of options, it just seems to be that smithing is a time consuming process. I’m almost wondering if what it needs is a change in timescale, so that the smaller examples of its work count as basic – even if they take 2 – 5 days (leaving things like swords and other armour as major)?

      2. I think that part of the reason why the core book goes light on the examples is that the devs expect Storytellers to make judgment calls based on what’s best for their table, rather than relying too heavily on codified rules. (The other reason is that oh my god this book is huge, and they had to cut bits and pieces out of everything.) Handle edge cases as best suits the needs of your table, which should become clear after a bit of actual play.

  2. > “I think that part of the reason why the core book goes light on the examples is that the devs expect Storytellers to make judgment calls based on what’s best for their table, rather than relying too heavily on codified rules”

    Maybe, but the problem is that the book clearly doesn’t explain the system well enough for potential players to understand it. I know the book is massive, but if reading the book leaves everyone with little idea of how the system is supposed to work, that’s a serious failure – it’s not helpful to say “we expect Storytellers to make judgement calls”, if you’re not giving them any way to calibrate their judgement against the way the system was designed.

    From everything I’m seeing in the book and the reactions to the book, it really needed some kind of sidebar, or *something* that clearly shows how the developers intend for the craft system to work.

    1. I agree that the crafting rules could use clearer examples, but that’s heavily exacerbated by A) putting the examples before the actual rules, and B) splitting the rules up into multiple bits, which are in logical places but nonetheless not all in one place. If you read all the relevant bits—and they’re all pretty close together on pp. 239-241—and remember that rules take primacy over examples, it seems clear how things work and there’s limited necessity for judgment calls.

      (I’m not going to discuss what the devs should or will do between now and the final release; I have no role in that.)

      1. > “If you read all the relevant bits—and they’re all pretty close together on pp. 239-241—and remember that rules take primacy over examples, it seems clear how things work and there’s limited necessity for judgment calls.”

        The many thousands of confused arguments going around various forums suggests otherwise. It might be clear to someone who’s spent the last few years deeply involved in the Ex3 project… but it’s very obvious that this is not the case for the outsiders now receiving their copies.

  3. A great crafting blog post, one that I think people will also really get a lot out of, would be one breaking down the differences and overlaps of sorcerous workings and superior/legendary crafting projects. While play testing, my group and I noticed that a lot of things you could do with an artifact (non weapon or armor) could be done similarly with a sorcerous working. Since Occult and Lore are requirements for artifact crafting, and you’d be silly not to grab at least Terrestrial Circle Sorcery with that minimum occult crafting requirement, you really start thinking about what is the better choice. For instance, my merry band of exalted privateers wanted to protect their island from intruders. The plan was initially an artifact light house that would lead sailors astray like some sort of oceanic willow-the-wisp. As we thought about it more, the idea of a sorcerous working, utilizing the natural coral reef around the island (and making deals with the goddess of said reef to help out with the ritual) to create a working that caused the reef to shift and rotate around the island like planetary rings acting as an ever changing obstacle upping the difficulty to sail into our lovely little privateer sanctuary. It really came down to a roleplaying decision rather than a mechanical one (with the only real cost difference being the charms worth of xp spent on making the working permanent). For us, the similarities and differences between the two options are not readily apparent at a glance and were only really discovered through play and taking time away from the story while we sorted it out. While it all worked out in the end, having this knowledge ahead of time would have been nice and probably helped with the flow of the game a bit. Would you mind touching on this topoic?

  4. …Given that the books give “weeks” as the far-out top end of a major project, that makes statues (given as an example for major projects) actually a superior project…

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