game design

Eric: the Podcasting

Onyx Path now produces a weekly podcast, the “Onyx Pathcast,” that covers all sorts of Onyx Path business and game line stuff. In today’s podcast, they’ve interviewed me! Come have a listen, it’s pretty cool and informative.

https://onyxpathcast.podbean.com/e/episode-12-i-know-what-cars-are-with-eric-minton/

Advertisements

“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.

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!

Ask an Exalted Writer!

Now that I’ve exhausted every major vein of Exalted developer quotes that I’m aware of, I’ve been mulling over some more substantial blog posts. However, my brain is still effervescing with 3e material for upcoming drafts, and for the moment I’d rather keep my creative energies aimed in that direction.

In the interim, if anyone would like to ask me questions about Exalted (or anything else), feel free to do so in the comments! I can’t provide substantive 3e spoilers, of course, but beyond that, ask away, and I’ll answer as best I’m able.

“Exalted 3: Has anything gone right?” Thread Summary

Here’s more developer quotes, this time from an RPG.net thread about Ex3’s development and release, particularly regarding how the leaked material impacted the process.


Rand Brittain:
Charles “Plague of Hats” Spaulding left the writing team.

Charles:
To be clear, I left in a huff (over a legitimate problem), then acted like a goober for a year culminating in an embarrassing tantrum. In retrospect, I don’t think this was a great loss for the project, anyway.


Mengtzu:
Exalted 3 makes a great deal of sense if you view it as a huge project that always needed years of iteration; in that respect it’s gone fine to any reasonable standard for big projects that need iteration.

For various reasons lots of people have been running around without this understanding (including I assume the dev team because if software teaches us anything it’s underestimating the development of systems is perfectly normal). Much of the Internet drama can be explained by this mismatch.

Holden:
This is basically how RPG design -should- work, but very rarely has ever had the opportunity to unless your name is Wizards of the Coast, because for most of the hobby’s history, you had to publish fast and publish constantly, or run out of money and die. When it doesn’t work this way, you get… well, you get the Lores in Demon: the Fallen (primary writer became terribly ill, had to be replaced at last possible moment), or the three-ring disaster that was Exalted: the Fair Folk or Exalted: the Lunars (similar issues), or any other book one would care to name which the creators knew damn well was not the book they wanted to create, but which had to go out the door now.

Solarn:
My biggest problem with the whole process (which I’ve gotten banned from the “Ask the developers” threads for) was that they stubbornly refused to acknowledge people’s problems with the original draft or even engage meaningfully with the people complaining right up until they decided to redo the whole thing.

Holden:
I believe you’re thinking of some other game, because that does not reflect anything that actually happened.

Solarn:
Yeah, it did happen. There was a long stretch of time when you responded to every complaint with a variation of “we’re sure that people will like the finished product” which is the most aggravating PR nonsense ever, when people were begging for something specific, even if it was just “I hear you, but I am not allowed/don’t think it would be a good idea to talk about particulars of the game”.

Holden:
How is that “rewriting the game after ignoring criticisms of the original draft?” The biggest time-eating major rewrites happened before any packets were sent out to playtesters. You are making that up.

There has never been a point where I had a public dialogue with non-playtesters about the specific contents of any written draft of the game. You are making that up.


SuperG:
mmmm. Personally, I think the long run-time on the game is probably a great idea and I have no complaints about that.

I just have two other complaints:

1) I wish we’d known, I cancelled a game several years early for apparently no reason because it wasn’t clear I’d be waiting until 2015… but split milk.
2) I wish they’d made a completely different game.

Because seriously, I just disagree with them about bedrock fundamentals. Like “are Ability Charms a good idea?” and “should Solars be THE heroes of the game line?”

Seriously, I have every reason to expect they’ll deliver a game designed with competency possibly unmatched in the history of roleplaying games. They have consistently portrayed a singular vision of what the game should be and not been afraid to say “you, fan? This thing you like? We are removing it because it makes the game worse.”

That is the attitude I want game designers to have. Game design by committee works about as well as anything else by committee.

AliasiSudonomo:
I confess that with your second point, I don’t think you were ever going to be happy with Exalted Third Edition, just like the people who apparently were hoping they’d ditch this silly Storyteller system and go with FATE, or something.

That said, the other big difference between Exalted 3 and the other OPP kickstarters: stuff like Vampire/Werewolf/Mage20 are relatively simple jobs. By which I don’t intend to minimize the work they were – each received substantial mechanical and setting adjustment – but they weren’t the total engine-and-transmission overhauls that Exalted needed. I think the developers went in with the honest intent of writing “2.5, but smoother” and found out the whole works were rotten enough to need ripping out.

I’m also confident that Exalted 3 will be the Team Fortress 2 of RPGs in this sense; laughed at as vaporware right up until it releases and everyone forgets how long it took.

Holden:
We never intended to do “2.5 but smoother.” Things like momentum-based combat, personality-and-goal-oriented social influence, and not having a separate mass combat system were design objectives from day one.

They were also things that nobody else had ever really done before, at least the way we had it in mind to do them, so we had to invent nearly every subsystem from scratch. It turns out, that takes a lot of time.


Scutarii:
Furthermore this layout process has not yet crossed the line in what Holden at least considers an acceptable time frame (if I am parsing this comment correctly, I may not be and if so then I apologise and please correct me if so)

http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m…462#post335462

So we’ve still got six-seven months before it’s too long in layout. And based on the progress on the Monday notes it won’t take that long.

Holden:
I’m not a layout person, art director, etc, I know nothing about the process or how it works. I have no opinion on what constitutes “too long.” I know that doing layout on an EX2 book at the end of EX2 took about a month, but that was using a pre-existing template, fonts, etc, and really miniscule art budget. (I think we had two illustrations per chapter in Masters of Jade? EX3 is probably closer to one illustration every third page.) EX3 is designing a new layout template from scratch and there are sections of the book that will use significant deviations from whatever that template ends up being. That’s a process totally outside my experience.

Coikzer:
Now I’m not saying that they should put up the rough draft they sent to Maria for us to read. But, fucksake…give us one Charm a week. Give us an overview of Intimacies or the combat system or an excerpt from setting chapter. What I’m getting at is that there’s a happy medium between dead silence and putting the entire book up for people to look at.

Holden:
We did every single thing you just mentioned, many of them multiple times. Charm previews, social stuff, combat system concept sketch, Charm trees, Evocation diagrams, antagonists, fiction, Merits, many setting material excerpts. A bunch of text has been previewed. It would be nice if people would stop saying there have been no previews on that front.

You’re getting art and etc updates now because that’s what’s being processed and frankly because I haven’t been on the corebook for months now. Dev-side, we’ve got our hands full with Arms, Dragon-Blooded, the Realm, and mapping out plans for Towers of the Mighty and the books that come right after it. The corebook is in production’s hands right now.

Blaque:
I remember one of the first things about the attempts at Charm previews was folks bitching that Taboo-Inflicting Diatribe was too weak because all it inflicted was had been Major Intimacies. This is becuase folks went at it like it was 2e, and assumed Intamcies were toothless and that the Charm as a result was a useless hyper-nerf. My perception might be skewed, mind.

Lea:
I mostly remember people complaining that the preview of that early version of 3e’s Taboo-Inflicting diatribe wasn’t a diatribe and didn’t inflict a taboo.

Kremlin KOA:
Include some art pieces. Maybe one of the chapter fiction bits. Hell if they want to hapmmer home the ‘this is much better than the leak version’ publish a changed charm or 5.
Those things could lead to the hype being at a nice simmer, or even a boil, when the book releases.

Holden:
Hey those are great ideas.

We’ve already been doing every single one of them.


PirateBrd:
3. The Ex3 team appears to lack confidence in their own product. To borrow a mantra from the days of Nixon, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” If you have a product you believe is very good, and someone distributes information about it, you should have no reason to fear.

Holden:
In this instance, you are mistaking murderous rage for trepidation.

gourdcaptain:
Umm well that explains a lot. Also not a response I was expecting to see at all.

Holden:
Having some asshole attempt to hijack control of a project you’ve poured three years of your life into leaves a man a wee bit salty, what can I say.

Solarious:
I don’t entirely blame you for your trepidation, seeing a few people latch onto a few tiny details and spawn thousands of posts screaming about them one way or another, to the utter exclusion of about 99.9% of the material. There are downsides, ones that I would like to do away with, but these are downsides I can live with at least.

Korhal_IV:
Actually, I think Holden meant that his linked post was full of murderous rage, not trepidation. I think you got his meaning reversed.

Holden:
My general silence on the subject and unwillingness to embrace the theft of my work, not that post in particular.

Vance:
The leak was unquestionably and unambiguously to the game’s detriment. Like, not even a close call.

Paradim:
The big question is how does Onyx Path Publishing deal with the existence of the leak. Other companies have dealt with unintentional leaks before where they’ve turned the leak into an asset for promoting their product. It’s a question of whether to attempt damage control and to see if the leak can be spun to better the company instead of hurting the company.

Vance:
Exalted will benefit the most if everyone involved is spending their time improving the game, not trying to wring some positive spin out of a leak.


Sanctaphrax:
I get why you’re angry.

But the leak turned out to be to the game’s benefit, so you should probably at least try to desalinate yourself. Ultimately it seems that they did you a favour by betraying your trust.

Holden:
So, I understand that you’re trying to be helpful. But, with respect, your particular phrasing is the kind that gets people into fistfights at conventions so you might want to consider that in future.

The thing is, if you read the leak and liked it? Great. It was going to be that good when it came out anyway, and positive word-of-mouth could have began at that point. I understand that your concern is that it relieved the tension of “is the game going to be good or not?” but that’s your concern. As developer, that’s a galaxy away from being my only concern, or even my primary concern. I have a big picture to worry about and the corebook is Step One.

Of course it’s good. I’ve known we were sitting on a great game for years. That has never been a real fear, except sometimes at 4AM when I can’t sleep and all the demons are crawling out of my brain and they’ve chosen “artistic insecurity” rather than “fear of the inevitability of death” or “my mother has survived cancer twice, it’s sure to come back for a third try and how long can an old woman’s luck hold out” or something else as their theme for the evening. But yeah– it’s good. It was always going to be good, and it didn’t matter if you knew it a year ago– you were going to find out when the game dropped and the buzz started.

You know what the leak did? Well, first, it shrunk the pool of people we knew we could trust dramatically and it ensured the game got less playtesting than we’d planned on. So there’s a quality hit. Second, it meant we had to do a lot of work ourselves that we’d had people assisting with, so it made everything take longer, because again– tiny circle of trust. The second leak dropped that circle to “Myself, John, Rich, Maria.” This slowed down work even more.

But that’s my personal sob story, what about the game? (“The Game,” note, not “the corebook.”) Well, what the leak did for the game is it got some positive word-of-mouth going (aside from some loon on Sufficient Velocity telling everyone who’d listen that the game is full of rape Charms, which is, uh, no, those don’t exist). That’s good, right? Positive word-of-mouth is great! People getting excited is an unalloyed positive, right?

Well, not quite. Because excitement has a limited half-life and you have to keep feeding it. I knew I had a big excitement-bomb to set off with the book’s release, and it was up to us to determine when to detonate the fucker, and you know what? Some asshole decided to pull a two-stage detonation a year and then six months ahead of the point where people, all jazzed and energized by the fresh buzz, could actually give Onyx Path money in response to their excitement.

People are now hearing the book is good? They would have heard that on release day, and at that point they could have purchased a copy if they weren’t already backers. Now they’ll have had months for “EX3 is supposedly great, I should pick it up” to fall to the back of their priority stack. For a significant chunk of my audience, the game’s first supplement will not come roaring out hot on the heels of a big release, but rather at a point when the game’s already over a year old for them. The leak robbed me of the ability to control the pacing of my supplement cycle, and the momentum of my release schedule.*

We ran the Kickstarter on faith in the product rather than putting all cards on the table because we’ve got a bigger concern in mind than just the performance of the corebook– we have every book that comes after it to worry about, and all the leak did was make our job harder for the next year, because we have to build momentum from a cold start rather than using the release-cycle acceleration as we designed it to work all this time. So the leak is maybe good for you, today, but it made production harder for the last year and it will continue to make it harder for the year to come, and what that ultimately translates to is worse products which take a longer amount of time to make.

*To be clear, I don’t get paid royalties, I’m a contract worker. I make a flat, non-time-adjusted fee for developing and writing these books: one check, based on wordcount, regardless of how long the job takes. The person most badly hurt by a “take it slow, do it right” approach is me. If the book sells ten copies or ten million copies, I get paid the same. Given the three-year production cycle and the other jobs I’ve turned down to focus on EX3, I am almost certainly going to lose money on the corebook, not make any. I am concerned with strong sales because it gives us a future budget to do more books, bigger books, and to have more art and Kickstarter doodads and gorgeous maps and whatnot.

So yeah, nobody did me any favors by stealing the team’s unfinished work. It might look like they’ve done you a favor (assuming those rules you’ve been spending months internalizing are the same as the rules in the actual corebook– some of them are not), but your short-term benefit is to the long-term detriment of the game line.


Holden:
I have the first-round layout files now, and holy shit, now I understand why designing and implementing layout took several months. You will too, when you see it. Rich and Maria outdid themselves, beyond my wildest and most fevered ambitions and imaginings. This is a) gorgeous and b) easily the most elaborately-designed book to ever bear the White Wolf imprint.

Going to drop everything else this week to get corrections back so you guys can get this as soon as possible. Holy shit.

Prometheus878:
1. Yay!

2. What White Wolf/Onyx Path books are the runners up for most elaborately designed?

Holden:
Hard to say, this is a very different animal than how other gorgeous/brilliant WW books have been put together. If you really want a list I can do one (Requiem 1 would definitely be on it, Scion as well, and certainly M20), but it’d mislead your expectations.

Kath:
If this new layout is so absolutely amazingly fantastic, why not release a preview pdf of half a dozen pages that really show it off? Right now, the leak is the only substantive ‘content update’ that we’ve had in an age – why not take the momentum back from the leak, and get direction of the communications strategy again?

Holden:
I would be very surprised if that’s not the next backer update.

(I don’t actually do the backer updates, you understand.)


Kremlin KOA:
Also i am curious as to why Stephen LS is a leak suspect.

Vance:
Same reason I am. The second leak was so late in the development process that very, very few people should have had access to that document. Given the circumstances, retracting the, I dunno what to call it, “trust circle” is a reasonable measure to take.


Daerim:
Open development is a very different process to more traditional development processes and it does take considerable resources. Note The Demented One’s comments about spending time spinning the leak as opposed to developing the game and The Red Baron’s comments about time, resources and vetting. The shift to “the leak” (as in the publication of unfinished work for the purposes of feedback and promotion) being development of the game is not inconsequential.

Spinning an unintended leak on a project that wasn’t set up to handle it is even more work, because it disrupts schedules and plans that have knock-on effects. Salinating with anger is not the best mindset for anyone to be doing damage control in and you don’t necessarily have the proper people to do a good job of it on hand, either.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of open development, but it isn’t trivially done and even less trivial to do well.

Matt.Ceb:
Err… They’ve already had a few open development projects. Most of them are already completed, too.
Most of the V20 line was done in open development, as was DA20. (Can’t say about W20, haven’t kept up with that.)

Daerim:
Ah, my bad. I mistook the scope of Onyx Path’s takeover of White Wolf. Consider my comments confined to the Exalted team.

IanWatson:
Takeover of releases, yes. Takeover in the corporate sense, no. Onyx Path currently publishes everything with the White Wolf logo on it that isn’t Mind’s Eye Theatre (which is done by By Night Studios), and has done for over three years now.

Just doing a quick rundown and looking at books (so excluding screens, posters, brochures, T-shirts, cards, etc., but including novels, anthologies, and comics), since our first Onyx Path-branded release in 2012 we’ve released:

VTM: 7
WTA: 11
MTAs: 6
DA: 1
Exalted: 2
WOD: 4
VTR: 5
WTF: 2
MTAw: 2
PTC: 1
CTL: 1
HTV: 1
GTS: 1
MTC: 7
DTD: 8

Numbers may vary depending on who’s counting and what they’re including and what they aren’t (Mummy’s core rulebook was sold as-is, but also split up and sold as three or four individual items, but I only counted it once), but as I tabulated that’s a total of 59 releases.

I figure somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of them were done using some degree of open development. It’s something we started doing from the outset: the White Wolf team had just released V20, the first project using open development, in late 2011 just before Black Wednesday, hit which led to the creation of Onyx Path.

It’s never been something we’ve required of any of our developers, though. It’s up to personal taste and how much time has been budgeted to finish a given project.


Gilbetron:
To be clear, the direction taken by you guys after the leaks was your choice. You could have continued as is, or opened it up more putting out alpha/beta drafts (a la D&D 5E) of the whole thing or just pieces. You choose to close it down, so the slowness is on you guys for that choice. There were options.

Holden:
Consider that one of the many reasons we didn’t run an open playtest is that running an open playtest is a GIGANTIC time-suck and the project was already eating ~12 hours out of our days. That would have slowed things down even more.

Gilbetron:
Open development, not open playtest. I understand why you wouldn’t run an open playtest. Open development is obviously within your means as other OPP projects have done so and with less cash than Exalted.

Holden:
The fact that you appear to think the KS money became some kind of operating budget reveals that you have absolutely no idea how this operation works, mate.

Gilbetron:
I’m well aware that the kickstarter was for the deluxe version – another weird OPP thing, but there it is. But a $600k+ Kickstarter almost certainly has an impact on the actual budget of a project. Both explicitly (more color art, a 15% bonus to the creators, +50% more words to the Sorcery section), and implicitly via the “hey, this thing is big” effect where you naturally spend more money on a project to help make sure it meets the goals of the very excited fans as proven by the heavily successful kickstarter.

Blaque:
As I gather, things are put to things they say it would be put to. WHich is art, the special deluxe editions, the bookmarks and so on. Authors for OPP and many RPGs aren’t paid a dime until the book ships in some fashion as far as I can tell. There’s no “operational budget” besides what they’re contractually menat to write, develp and what might be left after things since as I gather, delivering the books is sitll the priority of the KS first. Any operational budget is to the things the budget says it’s oprating to. And shipping and printing these fancy books in themselves is likely going tp eat a huge chunk of things.

This is also barring things like KS charging to host things and as I remember CCP getting a cut upfront since this is technically a licensing deal.

Holden:
Correct.

Isator Levie:
I’m still closer to the mark then the assertion that all of the lower-level pledges get to form some kind of budget that could somehow got towards an open development.

Holden:
Yeah. That would assume that we get paid for time invested in project management which ho ho ho ha ha ha ha no we do not.


Scutarii:
When a goodly number of OPP projects have used Open Dev in one way or another, the KS saying weekly/fortnightly/whatever updates AND getting Charm spoilers AND getting Abyssal and Infernal spoilers early on AND Holden/John being fairly active on the WW forums prior to the KS I don’t think it’s an unfair assumption that people who backed the KS could expect a continuation of what they were already getting, just extended for the duration of the KS delivery time.

Holden:
That was never a realistic option. There was zero movement on the corebook during the month the KS ran, because we spent all our time managing and promoting the thing.

“Lunar Exalted: What Are They to You?” Thread Summary

Back in February, RPG.net produced a sizable thread talking about the Lunar Exalted that received lots of developer attention regarding 3e Lunars (as well as a bit of Exigents discussion). I’ve compiled relevant dev quotes into the following post, threading them together as best I can.

For additional information, I also recommend consulting Holden’s 3e Lunars discussion from 2013, recorded on Chancel Aleph.


Lea:
I almost feel like people are saying we shouldn’t set it up so you need to rip out people’s hearts and eat them in order to access cool animal shapeshifting powers…?

Like, there’s actually an obvious built-in middle ground here between the pacifist who never kills anyone and doesn’t shapeshift and the serial killer who cannibal-murders tons of people and who has a lot of shapeshifting-related powers.


selfcritical:
My main conception of the Lunar is Apex Predator.

Not merely in the physical sense, but as “one who has prey”. For social variants and themes, Anansi and Coyote are inspiration, but physically, the werewolf should still be very much informative.

The Lunar should hunt the mighty, and Bring Them Low, wether in terms of stalking and killing the most dangerous prey, or humiliating and undoing the pretenses of mighty kings.

The Lunar should be able to switch between many faces and many approaches to a situation, adapting to the situation at hand, rather than reshaping the environment.

Where the solar rises to the level of their opposition, the Lunar should learn from failure. I think Wound Mastering Body evolution, while poorly executed, embodies a concept that should appear in Lunar charms.
The Lunar Escapes and Evolves.
The lunar should be both a Cunning Trickster and a Vengeful Monster.

John:
We share and adore this vision in many ways.

Tokezo Tenken:
I guess I have trouble seeing Lunars as apex predators because… well… they aren’t Solars. They have thousands of years of being a thorn in the side of their enemies, but they’ve never brought them down and now the Solars are back to do the job. I’m not trying to be insulting, honestly. I just don’t see managing to avoid extinction as a great ad for being the apex predators.

I don’t know. Like I said, I’ll give whatever comes out for them my best shot.

John:
Exalted is a heavily myth-inspired game. A Dragon-Blooded can outmaneuver Ahlat on the battlefield without him suddenly getting demoted from war god. A god of culinary arts can get his ass handed to him by a Solar chef in a cooking competition. The Exigent of Do can lose a kung fu fight to a Sidereal. A Lunar can also be the most fearsome predator to walk Creation while still having to contend with the Wyld Hunt.


squidheadjax:
Taking on non-animal forms was mocked outright, combat-adaptive and shapeshifting other than popping into a specific form…

John:
Excuse me? I understand you are disappointed at what you perceive to be a slight against yourself through our goal of upholding the core design elements of the Lunar Exalted, but we have never mocked the idea of Lunars turning into things other than animals. When we talk about them shifting into bestial battle forms and chimeric fusions of different beasts and you call that “zoo Exalted” you are the one who is mocking them turning into things “other than animals.” Every post from you in some way mocks Lunar players and what we plan to do for them. What you don’t seem to understand is that we have constituents other than yourself, and they form a majority of the fanbase, and we are not going to screw all of our customers just to make a few new customers, customers who hate the Lunars at their core and want them to be something else. So if you feel that your cries are falling on deaf ears, it’s because we’re not going to ruin the splat on your behalf by negating what they are through some horribly poor decision just to make you happy.

squidheadjax:
And the strength of whatever, speed of whatever, charms they talk about sound like just plain old dice adders. Yaaaaaay.

John:
Just as an FYI, every Charm that can be mapped to a roll is a dice adder.

squidheadjax:
And every time someone suggests a proper mythical monster (save the nemean lion for some reason) they shoot that one down too.

2e Lunars were incoherent, but at least they had an incoherent set of cool stuff. Every suggestion that fits my idea of Lunar ‘cool stuff’ that’s been brought forward to the devs has been Jossed, so like Scutarii, I’m not seeing anything other than “blandly animalistic” in the supposed “primal” theme.

John:
Here’s where the confusion lies: I have compared the Lunars to mythical monsters such as hydra and the Nemean Lion, possibly on more than one occasion.

Some people translate this as “the Lunars are based off of Greek monsters.” To clarify this confusion I said “No, they’re not.”

Why did I say two seemingly contradictory things?

Because some people might take “based off of” to mean that Lunars literally are built around emulation of Greek monsters. That, like the hydra they grow multiple heads that grow other multiple heads, or have extremely poisonous saliva, because they are built to emulate hydra. While a Lunar might regenerate extra heads or have poisonous saliva, the distinction in Exalted’s case is very important.

Are they becoming the monsters of Greek myth as an end-goal? Are the themes of their Charms an ekphrasis of Greek monsters? IE, more than just regrowing heads, is the Lunar when rebuffed socially, going to generate three new approaches, as one with the spirit of the hydra might?

The answer is No, because the Lunars are not being based on Greek monsters. They are not an ekphrasis of hydra. However, you can compare one to hydra, because it might become a multi-headed giant snake that has venom that can dissolve spirits permanently and because it can hide its real head behind its false ones, leading enemies to make useless attacks against parts of its body it can cast away. They might split their social approach into three new tactics after the first is rebuffed because Lunar Essence sips from our understanding of the god-monster, and that includes the hydra. They could be compared to the Nemean Lion because they can take the form of a gigantic lion and have a hide that is damn-near unbreakable.

The answer is No because Lunars are not being designed with Greek monsters directly in the heart of the design. They won’t have Medusa’s baleful gaze or a tree devoted to being half-horse, or shrieking like a harpy, etc., but where the idea of god-monster intersects with Greek myth, the comparison is there. Plus, who are we kidding? A really pissed Full Moon could take on the hydra, Scylla, Charybdis, and the Nemean Lion all at once. So a Lunar enters the lexicon of myth on a level that is singular, and makes its entrypoint as something connected to but above the myths of old, not climbing to meet them.

Ark:
hatewheel, I really like your posts, but I have to admit, I don’t understand some things. For example when you make the comparison between multiheaded hydra and a Lunar trying to do social stuff in some other way than before after he got rebuffed the first time. But what about that approach (“I failed with strategy A, now let’s try strategy B”) is explicitely Lunar … or explicitely hydra? Isn’t that how everyone acts? Sorry, perhaps I’m too dense to see it, but this looks like again having animal- or monster-named charms because well, Lunars.

John:
The hydra’s most well-known characteristic is that if you cut off one head, three more grow in its place. Things that are hydra-like would then mimic this nature. An Exalt “of the hydra” would show this particular resiliency in many ways, as an ekphrasis of the hydra.

Scutarii:
I’m having trouble parsing this.

So a Lunar doesn’t

[“is the Lunar when rebuffed socially, going to generate three new approaches, as one with the spirit of the hydra might?”]

Can a Lunar

[“because it might become a multi-headed giant snake that has venom that can dissolve spirits permanently and because it can hide its real head behind its false ones, leading enemies to make useless attacks against parts of its body it can cast away”]

Or not?

The: [statement], ‘The answer is No’ of that post is confusing me as to what is a positive statement of ‘Lunars can do X’ and which is a negative ‘Lunars can’t do X’.

John:
The Chosen of Hydra would have no Charms that are not somehow impelling the Exalt toward a state of perfect hydra-like being. Ergo, the Lunars are not based on Greek monsters. There’s some intersection, though.

Holden:
Solars are able to conjure a sword out of their anima. Is conjuring things out of their anima a major Solar theme? Is their Charmset largely structured around pulling things out of thin air? If not, why can they conjure a sword out of their anima?

Ark:
Doesn’t compute.
Thanks for taking the time to answer me, hatewheel, but I feel too stupid to understand what you want to tell me.

Tokezo Tenken:
I’m not hatewheel, but my interpretation is that a Lunar that is aligned with the hydra would attack problems (often metaphorically) in the manner a hydra would. So if a Lunar emulating the hydra faces an obstacle and a solution is closed off, they would attack the problem with three more solutions.

John:
Yep.

Scutarii:
Ooookay.

I think you’re giving me too much intellectual credit here – I still can’t parse which parts of hatewheel’s post are examples of things a Lunar can do and which are examples of what a Lunar can’t do. Or if he’s not trying to give example at all.

I am perfectly capable of understanding that one example does not mean that’s the ONLY thing they can do, also that one example is not a definitive statement of of the only KINDS of things they can do. I get that they aren’t monsters form Greek myth and they aren’t thematically trying to be them, they just happen to have some overlap in what they can do. I understand that because a Solar can make a sword out of their anima doesn’t mean that they are completely and totally defined by laser swords.

But the combination of different posters across multiple different forums arguing over what IS and what is NOT a Lunar thing, examples like Alex Mercer being argued as an example of a Lunar and then others arguing that it isn’t, examples of things like a Lunar growing multiple heads being a positive (I think?) while Lunars with a gaze that turns someone to stone as a negative leaves me pulled in all sorts of directions. Reading the old 2e stuff seems a waste of time as everyone and their dog agrees that they were so broad and eclectic in there as to be too nebulous and 3e is moving away from that, 1e is apparently a terrible book.

About the only positive thing I know about Lunars is that they can transform into an animal.

Can they change parts of their body into animal parts?

Change your left arm into a squid tentacle and whip it out to grab a foe, pull them in and crush them with a giant crab’s claw of a right hand? Change their legs into gazelle legs to jump? Grow a spinneret to create a rope to climb with?

Or do they change into a spider itself and just climb the wall?

Or do they remain in a human form but can climb like a spider without actually growing spider parts to do it?

All of the above?

None of the above?

Design not far enough along to make a statement about that either way?

John:
I appreciate your question, which is why I’m doing my best to answer.

I don’t want to discuss how their powers work yet, though. We have much work to do before we can make a lot of definitive statements.

Scutarii:
I appreciate the attempt and I appreciate you’re not ready to talk definitively.

I’ll fall back to the statement I made in my first post in this thread then. Namely that as of right now I’ve not been sold on why Lunars are interesting or something I should care about but that will likely change once we get closer to release of the Lunars book and the hype machine starts up.

John:
The largest and most powerful empire in the world says you are a monster and has vowed to hunt you to death. Many other nations also agree that yes, you must die. The powers of Heaven move against you, formed into a knife held in the hands of an assassin born from the stars. The wrath of the Five Elemental Dragons is upon you, in the form of Dragon-Blooded champions. Exigents try to be you, burn you, or follow you. Spirits older than time, that hunt the wastes fear and hate you for your power and will try to kill you if you aren’t paying attention. Elementals would like a taste of your power. Raksha would like a taste of your soul. Demons want to corrupt you and make you theirs. Horrors from the Wyld see you as food. Beasts and animals hunt you, flee you, and join you as kin. When the world of man is too hot or too dangerous, you can shed your skin and retreat into the wild untamed embrace of Gaia—nature. If the Sidereal assassin and Exigent shikari still follow you, you can go further into the Wyld, where they cannot easily follow you. The world is a womb of horrors and mysteries, of old magic winding down and going bad, of tomb doors sealed for eternity impossibly sliding open. And you, Chosen of the Moon, are at the center of it all. The whole world is against you but they cannot touch you unless you let them.


Ark:
Well, that might be another basic problem. The werewolf, weretyrantlizard and werewtfwhatisthisthing are Lunars which just hunted animals and now can become monsters – in the stereotypical monsters as killing machines way. The trickster Lunar who is not living in the “wilderness” but in “civilized society” has most likely a greater need for human shapes – and so he becomes a (mass?)murderer, which doesn’t fit well with the tricksters as not violent brutes stereotype.

Or in other words: the Full Moon guy can be just a big-game hunter which doesn’t stop him from playing weregodzilla, but the Changing Moon guy who just wants to play Anansi has to act like Jack the Ripper.

Holden:
Go look up the Changing Moon anima power. I’ll wait.

Sunder the Gold:
Is that one sticking around? I’d thought you guys would have various reasons to give them a different one, this time around.

John:
Lunars need spiced up animas. Changing Moon might get that, but maybe not just that.

Holden:
Nothing’s set in stone until the book comes out, but of all the old Lunar anima powers, it’s the one I think is probably the best.

SmilingBeast:
It’s certainly got potential, conceptually, though mechanically it was extremely disappointing. Wasn’t there a relatively cheap artifact in the core book that was superior in every way?

Though I’ll admit, that particular problem might be better expressed as “there’s a cheap artifact that’s better than the signature advantage of the Changing Moon Lunars” instead of “Changing Moon Lunars have a caste ability so sad that a cheap artifact is better.”

Still, I’m hoping that the Changing Moon anima ability becomes a bit meatier.

Holden:
It was definitely too expensive, but so were almost all the 1e animas.

John:
My inclination is that everything about Lunars becomes meatier, and more versatile. Lowered XP costs, easier to branch out, etc.


squidheadjax:
Not really. Exigents seem to each be utterly one-note by design – is only in the possibility to be ‘exigent of ‘ that breadth manifests.

John:
That’s adamantly wrong. I have forwarded to my writers, an approach I call “ecstatic design” and used several Exigents to demonstrate the approach of “ecstatic design” to them.

I call it ecstatic design for two reasons. First, it is a design which unfolds into another design, naturally transitioning from one premise to another with no logical breach. Second, because discovering this design in-play creates a sense of euphoria for the player. It is both emergent and optimistic. It uses the spectral logic of Essence and the mythos of Exalted to make sense.

Therefore the Thousand Venoms Mistress, your so-called “one note” Chosen of a “Poison Goddess” might turn her own blood into a strain of poison so painful it sends her into a state of hyper-real cognizance and changes how her powers work. This is aside from her basic, standard core powers of injecting people with venoms, delivering poison kisses, spreading venomous rumors, and so on. The design is ecstatic, because you hit a point where one Exigent becomes more than just what she was. And what she was was fun all on its own! But then all of a sudden, bam, through a logical transition something new unfolds inside her Charm set.

So no, they’re not all one note, requiring you to make the Chosen of Everything.


squidheadjax:
Yes, either they’re working from a coherent vision of them right now, or they aren’t. And if they’re really a big setting element now, and their nature isn’t a settled question. ..

John:
I can see how you’d think I have no coherent vision, because I spend my time responding to people who want eighty-seven completely different, incoherent things attached to Lunars, and I do this without laying out exactly what we plan to do for them.

That said, we’ve been short on specifics but very clear about where Lunars stand in EX3. They are what most of the world thinks of as Anathema. They are the legends of the wild untamed world. Masters of the hinterlands, gods of the wilderness; a fusion of man, god, and beast. They cut their teeth on the horrors of the Wyld and even the mighty enemies of the enemies of the gods go before the Lunars in trepidation; hate and fear them for their power. They are locked in a war for Creation with their former allies, who bend the very stars with their will and twist fate to control destiny, and the mighty, nigh unstoppable host of 10,000 Dragons.

You don’t like it, you reject it, OK. But we’ve been clear about it. Just because we haven’t written the Charms yet and we’re still very interested in what everyone (even you) wants to see in Lunar magic, doesn’t mean we’re somehow remiss or undecided about what Lunars must be / will be. There’s many different ways to do something and we are putting a lot of effort and time into testing, rebuffing, and changing our ideas to make the best outcome, and we will continue to do that until the Lunar hardback goes up for sale on drivehtrurpg.


Ark:
But when you’re here, allow me a question: some of the stuff we got from you guys about Lunars mention that illusion as basic concept of Lunars is gone.

John:
First of all, Lunars as the Illusion Exalt has been unsupported in their Charm sets for two editions. So if we said “no illusions whatever” it wouldn’t be a concept that we took away because it was never there.

Second, I did not say there would be no illusion magic whatsoever in Lunar magic. I don’t support the idea that they are Illusion Exalt. The actual post I was responding to was a demand for illusion magic to be a major part of the Lunar design, and it isn’t.

Ark:
At least I read that into some comment hatewheel made here: http://avatarcomic.net/ExaltedWiki/m…p?title=Exalts. If illusions are so un-Lunary, will the Changing Moon anima stay the same at all?

John:
Misrepresenting someone’s statements shows bad faith. But in case you really didn’t understand: Lunars having a heavy core of illusion magic would take away from the fact that they are shapeshifters. Their body magic is very physical and not a mere trick of the light. If they were sprouting illusions, soon the demand would come to give them the power to make those illusions real, effectively giving them freebase sorcery. This is not something that we’re ever going to do for Lunars. We could dial it down from that and let them do a lot of light-tricks, but people wouldn’t like that to be a heavy part of their core design because it wouldn’t be very powerful and because it doesn’t match what they’re really good at. Your takeaway should not be “no illusions ever” but rather Solars have illusions but I wouldn’t call out illusions as a big part of their Charm set. The same is likely for Lunars.


LordofArcana:
I was thinking about the Lunar castes, and it seems like while Full-Moons are great, that the No-Moons and Changing-Moons are reversed.

Shamans, as I understand them, rely almost entirely upon having a personal relationship with the spirits/monsters/things that they interact with. They need to be able to make just about anyone feel comfortable with them, because they will frequently deal with powerful things that can have rather short tempers or odd perspectives. That suggests really impressive interpersonal skills and thus Changing-Moons.

Tricksters, on the other hand, are generally widely disliked. They generally influence people and situations by finding an opportunity to be a manipulative bastard and taking full advantage of it. They are almost always clever and perceptive, and often quite intelligent. To me that suggests No-Moon.

John:
Very thoughtful observation.


Spectralent:
Originally, they were just werewolves, but Exalted to me. It’s probably not a coincidence I didn’t find them very interesting then. Then GotMH: Luna came out, and we had this awesome protean, mercurial figure with fierce loyalties baked at her core and an ever-changing skin on top of that, and that got me interested in them. I like the idea of Lunars as a group being adaptable and unpredictable; I’m alright with exalts being a bit less versatile than the actual goddess of the moon, but I’d still put the social lunar as the one who shows up looking like someone’s personal image of beauty happening to know just what they’re interested in or the combat Lunar being a regenerating juggernaut who looks like they’re in trouble when the spears show up… Before they start growing a puncture-resistant hide and tank onwards. That’s kind of my jam with them, but I expect it’s probably wrong.

John:
I invented Luna as you know her. Anyone else who loved Luna’s myth in Glories might keep in mind that I wrote and invented Luna’s myth in Glories. I did this out of a keen interest in improving the Lunar IP, even though I was a dark horse freelancer on his first gig with zero writing credits to his name.


Scoop Life:
Hm? …Hm.

So first there’s this post. Your response to the precedence of Lunar shapeshifting is

a) a comparison to a lazy Halloween costume some five year old kid can do–something that connotes childishness
b) a facile statement that looking like something isn’t becoming something. Facile because while that is obviously true, the context of Lunars isn’t people who look like things, it’s people who turn into things.

John:
That’s not mockery. That is setting down the basics of shapeshifting. I am not talking about what Lunars can do there. I am talking about design theory. If I give Lunars the power to look like a ghost, they will want to walk through walls. The point being made is that looking like something is the least factor in being a shapeshifter, and does not entail having the powers of a thing.

Scoop Life:
“playable Shoggoth[s]”

John:
Shoggoth is cool, but Lunars are not Shoggoth. Construing that as mockery is super bad faith.

Holden:
I didn’t make up the Alex Mercer = playable shoggoth thing, that is how I have had multiple people describe him when trying to convince me that’s what Lunars should be.

Scoop Life:
A few posts down. Holden says that 1e Lunars didn’t get to turn into “rocks and houseplants.”

John:
They could in 2e. And it’s a bad idea, because it’s silly. We don’t want the Lunars to be perceived as the silly guys who turn into ferns. That’s not intended to make you feel mocked, Scoop Life.

Scoop Life:
“It’s hard to caricature an argument from a guy that wants to play a vegan Lunar.”

John:
Yes, if you read the conversation, you will see that I am responding to someone who said that they want to learn non-lethal shapeshifting forms because they don’t want to eat animals because they are vegan. And when I said no, this other poster accused me of imagining a caricature of the idea. I consider the idea itself to be a caricature of Lunars, as they are defined by eating heart’s blood, as I explained in a post before that one, comparing it very seriously to the improbability of vegan vampires. I don’t think every idea is a good idea and I say so.

Scoop Life:
I guess pretending to be a cannibal is only for hardcore mature adult roleplayers or something.

John:
So here you are directly mocking our customer base, which is basically what this post comes down to, isn’t it? I’m not going to sit here and let people like you call the fans of Lunars stupid and mock them because you don’t like the way the design is going. I will object, because people who say shit like this are killing the conversation and chasing away good posters and customers.

Scoop Life:
Meanwhile, it’s hard not to read this post as mockery in general, if not specifically of non-animal Lunar transformation. I mean, really? Every Lunar conversation? You may be the current developer, but you don’t know how every conversation had gone. Unless it’s just hyperbole… people usually use hyperbole to mock, though. Jussayin.

John:
Wow. Reaching.

Scoop Life:
And I mean, it may be good for the Lunars to be Zoo Exalted! You’re the one, after all, telling Irked he thinks animals suck (presumably by reading his mind) perhaps out of an attempt to assert that animals don’t suck.

John:
First, that’s Godjaw. Second, he was calling them Zoo Exalted and going about how animals are shit. In the very post I am responding to, he’s telling me that animals need to be pretty awesome. You know, as opposed to shit. The way he implied they must be in his other posts.

Scoop Life:
You’re the one that, when presented with a quotation of your original intent NOT to make Lunars “the Chosen of Zoo Tycoon,”

John:
Yes I did. In 2012 or possibly even 2011, while we’re still mostly wrapped up in how Second Edition did hyper-literal mechanics, I was talking to a group of Lunar fans who hated the idea of Lunars getting literal powers of animals. I made a jokey post including a reference to Jump the Shark Prana. It was meant to be cute. Anyone who took that as a statement of throwing out animal themes, or bashing animal themes, is stretching really hard.

Tokezo Tenken:
I feel the context of the other poster’s full statement says something different than what you’re stating here.

John:
People are repeatedly casting aspersions on Exalted players for wanting to play Lunars, because Lunars are “stupid barbarians” “serial killers” and “Zoo Exalted.”

To me that looks to be exactly what he is doing.

Here’s the post he’s mocking:

Originally Posted by hatewheel:
The argument that having to take heart’s blood makes you uncomfortable and therefore we should change it has absolutely zero traction with me. It’s like, you know, maybe Lunars aren’t your bag. Maybe they aren’t what you need from a character. If it were an rpg about vampires and you wanted to not have to drink blood so that you could play a pacifist I’d react the same way. I’d also point out that a pacifist vampire who still has to drink blood is a fascinating character. Of course, if it’s not fascinating to you, then you shouldn’t be playing it.

John:
Here’s him mocking it.

Originally Posted by Scoop Life:
I guess pretending to be a cannibal is only for hardcore mature adult roleplayers or something.

John:
And yes, that’s a mockery, because it implies that we’re running cannibal RPG and that’s why people play Lunars, it’s wrong to play something like a vampire, being a vampire makes you an adult poser, etc.


The Unshaven:
In terms of design-space for Lunars, fair enough.

However, I was wondering if I could clarify: when I think of example Tricksters in culture, Anansi and Coyote spring immediately to mind, and they didn’t leave a trail of dead people in their wake as part of Being Other People. Even Loki is in the same basket.

The discussion so far suggests that these characters are not in the constellation of inspirations for the Lunar design space, and fair enough.

So, I guess my query is: what mode of Trickster IS in the Lunar design space, if either they can’t pretend to be other people, or do so via ritual murder?

John:
This deserves a response, but I need to think about it. Before I respond to this, I have a query for anybody who feels like participating.

List if you can, every problem you can think of with a shapeshifting power that allows a Lunar to change their features, but only their human features. With this power, the Lunar may change their entire appearance, even their gender, but they may not change themselves to impersonate another character. Describe all the problems with this. I’ll be back in a bit.

Sunder the Gold:
Sounds like Shaping The Ideal Form, a First Edition Charm.

“Problems”, hmm. Problems.

Presumably, this Charm cannot change the Lunar’s Tell (or the pattern of their Tattoos, which will be assumed as included in “the Tell” for the rest of this post). So long as the Lunar’s Tell remains unchanged, anyone who knows the Tell can recognize the Lunar regardless of any number of permanent changes to her true human shape. Though continuously changing her true human face can make it harder for someone to attach a specific identity and history of association with the Lunar, if they failed to notice the Tell in previous encounters or fail to see it in later ones.

Essentially, this Charm is just a really good disguise Charm — like Solar Flawlessly Impenetrable Disguise, only without the mote-commitment or any need for make-up or props.

A clever Lunar can, of course, assume an appearance plausibly close to that of someone another character has heard of but has never personally met. For example, a Dynastic mortal comes to Nexus looking to make a deal with a slave-owner known to have dark skin, red-hair and a thick Nexus accent. The Lunar can become a dark-skinned, red-headed man and speak with a thick Nexus accent, and even though the slave-owners associates would be able to spot the fake instantly, the Dynastic costumer can be fooled into thinking the Lunar is the man he’s looking for.

Especially if the Lunar uses social influence Charms to affect how others see her (the Lunar).

I’m not seeing any “problems”. Rather, I do hope we see a return of Shaping the Ideal Form!

John:
Yes, I do recall that Charm. How about the logical problem that if you can make yourself look like anybody you will always look like somebody? In essence, the clause that you can’t impersonate a character makes the power incoherent? Or do you think that’s easily solved?

Huntress:
Only issue I see is that I’m reminded of how much cheating went on with Loom Snarling Deception “I’m not turning into the guard captain, I’m turning into his imaginary twin brother”

John:
LOL. Well I just think the power negates itself. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Random Nerd:
Yeah, that’s pretty much where I fall. “You can’t look like some specific person” just seems a little weird and arbitrary. I’d buy that if it was a fairy illusion or something, which you rather expect to have odd loopholes. But if you’re physically changing the way your face looks, it’d be weird to be able to look like any hypothetical person, but no actual person.

John:
Wouldn’t you say that makes the power improbable? What if you run into someone you didn’t know about, but you look just like them? Or do you not see this as a problem?

Dagor:
I’d consider “you can shapeshift into anything reasonably human but not duplicate a specific person” kind of silly. What’s stopping me, exactly — assuming the effect isn’t so crude that anyone who sees me can immediately spot it as “doesn’t actually look human after all”, that is? And if I do assume some particular shape and later discover that somebody I run into just so happens to look exactly like that, does that mean I now lose the ability to take that form ever again?

I’d be far more inclined to go with “you can outwardly duplicate the looks of anyone you know well enough, but you may miss details you weren’t aware of or paying attention to and you’re certainly not automatically getting their knowledge and mannerisms as well”. I might be able to copy Brad Pitt’s face from watching a few movies starring him with this, but I wouldn’t also get, say, his fingerprints or know the first thing about what he’s like when the cameras aren’t running…

John:
Yes. My read on it is that this is the main problem with such a clause. It negates the entire power, because if you can look like anybody, you always look like somebody.

Roadie:
Agreed with everything here.

Rather than saying “you can’t turn into someone you know”, why not just require a Larceny roll when trying to imitate a specific person, like any other disguise?

That way the “I ran into this guy who coincidentally looks like my favorite alternate form, so now I can’t turn into that anymore” problem is completely avoided.

John:
I like the way you think, but I think if you have to change the rules so that the power doesn’t have that clause anymore, it demonstrates the flaw of the power. It negates itself.

John:
I think you will find many possible limitations to shapeshifting that don’t make sense. If you are searching for a way to make shapeshifting balanced by preventing it from allowing a Lunar to freely turn into anyone, you won’t find many limitations that do make sense.

Inqy:
Well yeah, the logical power would be something like: “you have the power to mould your form like clay, with a Craft/Larceny skill roll to shape yourself into a form resembling a specific person well enough to fool a knowledgeable observer.” The advantage being flexibility, the disadvantage being time and investment.

John:
Quite. But if you change the power, you aren’t fixing it. You’re throwing it away.

Can it be said that the power negates itself, and therefore should be seen as a bad deal?

Or can there be some value of “good” in it? Anyone care to argue that you are still highly unlikely to ever run into anyone you look exactly like, and therefore it shouldn’t matter? Does anyone feel that the elasticity of what you imagine can support an inconsistency in the logic of the power, which does not fit the wider logic of Creation?

If attitude is that the power should fit the logic of Creation and therefore negates itself and is not good, then you have to look anywhere else for a reasonable substitute.

If you’re only interested in the result but not in how you get there, you are going to have a lot of problems writing Exalted mechanics. This is something we plan to discuss in The Exigents.

The Unshaven:
This confuses me, too.

hatewheel, would you mind unpacking the logic here when you get a chance? It seems to be an intuitive “So this obviously doesn’t make sense!” for you, where I see no issue whatsoever.

I think I must have misunderstood something, because currently my impression is that your logic could equally say “Being a grifter character in Leverage is internally inconsistent because you might make yourself look like someone who actually exists somewhere in the world.”

I still come back to the Trickster question: If the Trickster deities like Coyote and Anansi are off the table for Lunars, then fair enough, that’s the choice that’s been made. I currently don’t have an understanding of what Tricksters would be on the table instead.

John:
You can either look like somebody, or you can look like nobody. The stipulation clearly negates the power. I am not sure what’s confusing about that. It is impossible to categorize the power to look like another human who looks like nobody else, while looking like nobody in particular. You always look like someone in particular. It is not possible, otherwise, to look like anything. A person who looks like no other human would not look like a human, they would look like something imperceptible, something from a dimension above or beneath our own.

Let me humor the power for a moment and walk you through some scenarios, however:

1) You turn into another unspecified person. When it is time to drop the Charm, you cannot return to your normal shape. Remember, the Charm does not allow you to look like a specific character. I am not being coy or pedantic here; the power to shapeshift into something should logically include the power to shapeshift back into one’s self. This would obviously require a clause that you be able to look like yourself. But wait—what if you are a dead ringer for a parent, grandparent, and so on? You would not then be able to shapeshift back into your own face. Of course, we’d waive that aside—everyone who wants the power to work is willing to overlook the implausibility. But wait, what about one of my stolen shapes? Does this mean I cannot use this power to return to a shape I’ve stolen? Well, obviously there would be a clause somewhere stating that a face I have permanently stolen now counts as my face for the purposes of all such Charms. But then, what if the face I have stolen is a dead ringer for one of that person’s family members? Then I would not be able to use this Charm to return to that shape. In effect, every time I used this Charm, it would necessitate losing the shape I am changing from forever, because of the content line stipulation. Never mind that this power just doesn’t work in the first place, because the stipulation makes it negate itself.

2) I’m standing next to Bob and I want to change shapes to impersonate Bob, but the power won’t let me. So I grow moonsilver talons and rip Bob’s face off. Bob no longer looks like Bob. Now can I turn into Bob? Or does the Charm’s stipulation mean that “no, you smartass, you can’t get around eating heart’s blood by literally stealing someone’s face”? I can guarantee you that yes, the stipulation means exactly that. Just because Bob no longer looks like Bob, doesn’t mean you can now look like Bob-that-was using this Charm. So, if you throw Bob in a volcano, and he burns up and his physical form and identity burn up, does that now mean you can look like Bob? Well, no, because the stipulation is that you may not look like another character, and Bob with or without a face, incinerated or unincinerated, is a character whom you cannot take the shape of. So you can’t use this Charm to look like someone who has ever existed. So you can clearly see, this Charm negates itself because you cannot use it to look like any other character, and every other shape of a human which might have ever existed falls outside the wheelhouse of this Charm. The stipulation causes the Charm to negate itself.

3) In all the world, there are people who look exactly like you, even if you aren’t related. Body doubles are an actual thing, not just something from science fiction. You can argue that the much lower population of Creation means there is less chance of you looking exactly like someone else, but there is no guarantee of it. You might argue that humans in Creation don’t have genetic laws like we do, or common ancestors, having been created by the gods, or that the Loom of Fate makes sure everyone looks visibly different, but then you are having to introduce metaphysical clauses to compensate for a Charm which, by 1&2, negates itself and can’t even work in the first place.

You cannot ever look like nobody. You can only ever look like somebody. There’s no middle.

This is not an injunction against writing or using such a Charm, but it is certainly a mechanic you need to understand if you plan to write Lunar Charms.

Note: It is absolutely within the wheelhouse of a Lunar in EX3 to take the form of that unbeheld other—the imperceptible being. A Solar would need some decent Awareness, Occult, or Investigation Charms to reconcile such a being to her own eyes.

Alderman:
Or, you can’t shapeshift with enough precision to impersonate a specific person and saying “you can’t look like a specific person” is a rules shorthand. You are really making this way more complicated than anyone else here, i think.

John:
I am demonstrating how shapeshifting limitations often do not make sense. If you can’t look like another character, then the Charm doesn’t work, because it makes you look like another character. It doesn’t matter if there’s a specific or unspecific character. It’s just a logical impossibility. As you can see in my post above, this wouldn’t stop me from writing a Charm. It works because people want it to work—which is another important element of design. Magic is implausible from the outset, but people expect it to follow rules that make sense to them, and will accept rules that allow them to have fun and keep a power simple and ideal. These are very basic considerations to make when writing Charms.

Also, that rules shorthand can also fall apart pretty fast as soon as you introduce a character with better shapeshifting than your own, or weird shape-assumption powers.

Let’s say some weird new kind of Fair Folk wants to screw with you, so he drifts in out of the Wyld and assumes the exact shape of the “unspecified character” whose shape you are now inhabiting. Now that form is the official form of his character. What happens? Does the power stop working? Does it force you to change shapes? I hope you haven’t put too much time and effort into establishing your identity!

selfcritical:
As above, I get the metaphysical problem of identity there, but I do think that “you can’t reproduce intentionally a specific person by imagining that person” is a not crazy nonsensical limitation, even if it allows you to accidentally become the duplicate of someone you didn’t intend. In fact, I think that’s kind of a feature, because it lets you hang mistaken identity comedy of errors on top of it, and it means the person who invests in “become a perfect mirror of x” charms also gets to avoid said comedy of errors.

John:
That’s an interesting point. Because in the unlikely case that you look exactly like someone else, then it demonstrates the uselessness of the stipulation, unless you think the Charm would force you out of shape (which it probably would not–it would be written specifically to not do that).

Holden:
If you think about the effect from the perspective of internal consistency of how stuff works within the setting, there are issues.

It’s fairly easy to work around them to produce an effect that will produce smooth play at tables (even the busted-ass 1e Lunar set managed that) but if you’re not aware of the issues you’re papering over, you’re likely to run into nastier snarls elsewhere, yes? Writing something as big as a full Charm set requires very deep thinking about how things hook together, even if nobody who reads or plays the set later thinks as hard about it as you did.

Alderman:
Sorry about that, it’s not intentional. I guess my problem is that it sounds to me like you’re explaining step 2 of a thought process where I don’t see step 1 – no matter how well 2 is explained, I still don’t see why it’s necessary, y’know?

It’s just that to me it seems like you avoid most of that by saying the limitation is that you can’t intentionally turn into someone else. Yeah sure, maybe you’ll look like some random person two kingdoms over, but who cares? It’s not like you can use that, you didn’t get to pick which random person it is!

Holden:
Perhaps you should read over the (several times reiterated and re-explained) answers you’ve already gotten, try to think of a new angle to approach from, and then ask about that, or explain the conclusions you reached so that conversation can move forward in the thread due to getting some new insight and ideas? Right now you’re coming off as just repeating the same question until you get an answer that agrees with you.

The point of the exercise is not to say “you’re dumb and wrong if you think a power to change your eye color is fun,” it’s a prompt to get those interested in design (which is everyone in this thread, at least ostensibly?) to consider potential problems with ways of structuring an imaginary shapeshifter’s powers. But the current page of this thread has 4 posts of you repeating a question more and more stridently. That’s not productive to respond to, nor a good use of anyone’s time.

John:
Well, mostly I think we are having different conversations. I am talking about design philosophy and trying to point things out to people who are interested in the angles and perspectives. I’m not roping off powers that Lunars can’t have or shouldn’t.

You are 100% correct (in your above post) that the rules are not a physics engine, but I still have to consider whether they push the boundaries of people’s expectations, or create snares in the design that will trip up a writer or the players, or create unexpected results, or say things about the splat that are unintentional.

I see shapeshifting as a tippy-top shelf power because it doesn’t outwardly seem all that powerful but it really is. Likewise, I see it as an extremely difficult thing to mechanize, because it looks simple but can quickly become extremely complicated and overwrought. One of my big problems with stipulations that are obviously in place to stop something unfair from happening is that they often are not consistent with what a splat should be capable of. I have to be able to set aside the hard mechanics and ask “why?” and “what does this feel like?” which is an equally important part of mechanics writing, because sometimes the answer is “they need this power to make it cost them more to get the Charm that has no limitation” and sometimes they answer is “this limitation says bad things about the entire splat” and sometimes it’s “this limitation is AOK because it doesn’t threaten splat perception.” In order to make that call I have to understand the mechanic completely (or as close as philosophy will allow me).

AliasiSudonomo:
I’d see that less as a problem than an opportunity; you look exactly like SOMEONE out of Creation’s teeming millions. Now, is it anyone important and can you capitalize on that?

And if that’s not something a GM wants to deal with that day? Sure, you look exactly like a rice farmer on the other side of the Direction. It won’t be important.

John:
Yes, it is highly unlikely that the discrepancy will ever matter at someone’s table. But it could matter to the entire rest of the design.

Rachel Cartacos:
Also not seeing the ‘the charm cancels itself’ implication that’s being said here.

To me, it looks really simple. The Charm won’t let you look at, say, Lord Applebloom the local fish merchant, and deliberately shift yourself to look like him. And that’s it. That’s the only implication of the Charm that I can see.

John:
Lord Applebloom doesn’t look like Lord Applebloom, though. So why can’t you look like him? I mean, he looks like his father. His father, likewise, looks like his father. Why should a Lunar’s power to change shapes ever be contingent on deliberately not looking like someone? You know, outside of heart’s blood being a thing.

Just because we understand it and want it to work doesn’t mean it’s actually plausible, or even consistent.

nexus:
Lord Applebloom probably doesn’t look exactly like his father though. They’ll likely have a family resemblance, perhaps a strong one but they’re not identical copies of each other. The power doesn’t say the character can’t so much as bear a resemblance to any other human being in Creation just that can’t deliberately become identical to someone.

John:
Certainly possibly true. But some people do look exactly like their forebears and could pass for them. There are also people with identical twin siblings.

nexus:
I don’t see how that is relevant to the discussion.

John:
I’ve thought about it, because I am not sure why I instinctively feel that is a point. I guess what it comes down to is that a power with such a stipulation would let you accidentally look exactly like someone else, or it would allow you to only look “almost” like someone else, but not exactly. Which makes me wonder why. I mean, you and I both know there are reasons that exist outside the power, and they are reasonable…reasons (lol.) but! I have to consider how it feels too, and if it makes a weird statement. I think everyone here is correct in saying that there is no problem with the power. Which is in itself interesting, because let’s say you all agreed that the power was inconsistent as I say it is–I still think you’d all be fine with it anyway.

John:
Let’s see, the Charm concept as I originally plated it:

“a shapeshifting power that allows a Lunar to change their features, but only their human features. With this power, the Lunar may change their entire appearance, even their gender, but they may not change themselves to impersonate another character.”

The main problem here is that a power that changes how you look definitionally allows you to impersonate another character.

Alderman suggests the following change:

“a shapeshifting power that allows a Lunar to change their features, but only their human features. With this power, the Lunar may change their entire appearance, even their gender, but they may not change themselves to impersonate another specific character.”

There’s still problems with that that I can point to, but it mostly squares it with everyone.

So then the question becomes, why the stipulation? Anyone care to make some suggestions?

John:
“You can shapeshift to look like another human as long as you look like no other human” is incoherent. :-p

nexus:
You could use the power to assume features similar to someone in that family line, but not a specific Applebloom. If you could pull off posing as one of the family would be an exercise of the Lunars Abilities (and role playing). Someone might say “She looks like might be from the Applebloom clan.” but they won’t say “Hey, its Gracie Applebloom!” at least not from the use of this ability alone.

This really feels like searching for an issue where there really isn’t one.

John:
If you go back a few pages, I was asking whether people felt like it was a problematic Charm or a perfectly fine one. My purpose in asking was to execute a fact-finding mission, to see people’s different ways of approaching an effect. When people explained what could possibly be wrong with it, I explained it. My intention is not to say that anyone is wrong, because ultimately there’s no objectively right way to write a shapeshifting Charm. Indeed, if you disagree that you in order to look like anybody you must look like somebody, you won’t think this is a problem. But that’s why I started this conversation by asking people if they thought it was a problem. You seem to have misconstrued this as an argument. It’s not. I’m explaining another point of view which some of you seem not to share. 🙂

Paradim:
I get the concept of what the power is meant to do. This says nothing whatsoever on how effect the given ‘mechanic’ is in actually embodying the proposed concept that would or would not raise potential issues in gameplay and only be analyzing it through various interpretations can you determine whether something about the language used raises issues of indefiniteness.

John:
Yes. Thousands of people will beat on a Charm and some will take different meanings from it. I’m really not trying to be obtuse here, just trying to show how shapeshifting magic might be contentious.

If the stipulation exists it negates the power, and makes me wonder how to roleplay a Lunar. I always approach the use of a Charm from a point of feeling. And when I feel my way into the use of this Charm, I don’t like the psychological “hitch” it entails. That hitch comes when I am forced to consider transforming myself into a person who looks like nobody else, when my idea of “somebody else” is formed entirely by other people I’ve seen. This is absolutely not a game-breaking, splat ruining stipulation, it’s just one that comes to mind. 🙂

nexus:
I don’t think it is based on deliberately not looking like anyone. It just means the Lunars doesn’t have the fine control and artistry required to sculpt themselves relatively instantly into a flawless double of another person. But they can alter the features as to appear like a different person. If those changes make them resemble someone else and what effects that might have are determined by situation, the ST and the player’s creativity.

John:
I think you are correct. Any thoughts on why you’d want to write a “first step” power like this?

nexus:
It seems like a reasonable ability for Lunars to have, at least as I see them.

John:
Sure, but why not just start them off with the more effective upgrade?

nexus:
What’s the more effective upgrade?

John:
One hasn’t been mentioned, I just took this—

nexus:
I don’t think it is based on deliberately not looking like anyone. It just means the Lunars doesn’t have the fine control and artistry required to sculpt themselves relatively instantly into a flawless double of another person.

John:
—to mean the Lunar would at some point gain that power. Not your intent?

Paradim:
Could a Lunar use this power to look “close enough” to a specific person to enable them to do a Larceny roll to do a mundane disguise roll at a lower difficulty than they would with their natural appearance?

John:
Probably. It could also be used to evade people searching for you.

Rand Brittain:
Wouldn’t it be easier to say that the power works based on your general desire, rather than allowing you to sculpt your features in an intentional and craftsmanlike fashion? If the power works based on “I want to turn into a big blond guy with cauliflower ears” rather than letting you work your features like clay, then you’ll have generalized shapeshifting without the ability to specify a known individual.

John:
That is probably the best way to put it, because it feels right.

Paradim:
Or that you have a design goal of having progression shown in the mechanics of your game (I’m thinking of the Upgrade Charms from Infernal Exalted here).

John:
I think that’s very astute.

AliasiSudonomo:
Honestly, I don’t think so [re: “Yes, it is highly unlikely that the discrepancy will ever matter at someone’s table. But it could matter to the entire rest of the design”]. Quite aside from this being the very first time I’ve ever seen anyone bring up a major problem with an ‘alter self’ type power, it’s a difference that makes no difference in relevance to the overall design, I think. The real core of that particular idea is “the Lunar doesn’t get to fine tune it”, which means:

* The character cannot choose a specific appearance beyond ethnic generalities,
* The character will probably look more like any given person they’d like to disguise as, but ultimately it’s just more effective hair and skin dye; worth a bonus to a disguise roll, certainly, but not foolproof.
* There is a very slight chance you look exactly like someone who would be relevant to your situation, through sheer chance. Rather than run away from this, embrace it, because it’s the kind of attention to detail that the best Exalted supplements have. (How many fantasy settings go into the details of the monetary system, down to a pseudo-prime interest rate?) Perhaps a botch on a roll while shapeshifted means your random appearance happens to mimic that of a wanted criminal or someone else who significantly complicates your situation, whereas a high number of threshold successes means you’ve lucked into looking exactly like the prince you were wanting to assassinate. Or just admit the chances of it mattering are astronomical and make that whole second bit optional.

I don’t see it nearly as self-negating as you seem to think it is, honestly, either in actual use or in thematics. If the thematic of this particular charm is, “As a first step, Lunars can affect gross changes in their body, but lack the skill for fine detail at this point”, then it’s not self-negating at all – the important bit is the Lunar cannot control when they happen to look exactly like someone. It’s roughly as important a detail as the possibility that a Sidereal using Embracing Life Method may find objects of great value or importance, even though most of the time they won’t. The main role of the limitation would be to offer a broad sort of shapeshifting if becoming someone’s exact double intentionally is supposed to be a bit harder or more involved.

John:
I don’t think it’s self-negating. It is self-negating. Magic doesn’t have to make sense, but officiating over the logic of powers is sort of my job. Of all the responses I’ve seen so far, people have been squaring the stipulation in the mechanic with the rest of the mechanics, but only Rand has really sought to square it with the logic of other powers in the setting. The stipulation can easily be squared with people, but nobody is really asking why it should be there in the first place, outside of the mechanical limitations. And yes, it does create implications on the rest of the design. Because it points to some other factor outside of this Charm, limiting it (heart’s blood).

It’s not important that a player see a problem with the Charm. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. But Lunars have had a contentious existence. I think it’s safe to say that some people have had very strong ideas about shapeshifting that did not fit other people’s very strong ideas, and this caused friction.

Tokezo Tenken:
You are literally never going to come to a point where you don’t have friction based on people’s ideas. There is no design nor wording that will solve that.

John:
It’s worth noting that, while true, if you set down a guideline in the text, players take it as an objective truth. This guideline was missing for six years, and everyone’s interpretation of shapeshifting became valid. There are thousands of ways to shapeshift, and Lunars cannot and should not encompass all of them.

Rand Brittain:
I think what hatewheel is trying to say is that as developer, it’s his responsibility to come up with a logic for each Charm that makes sense not just for that Charm, but that serves as a segment of the whole set of Charms. The Charmset is defined by the things it can do, and also by the things it can’t do (see Sidereals for an example of a Charmset heavily designed around what it can’t do), and there needs to be a visible internal logic for why it can and can’t do certain things if you want people to be able to read the Lunars book and make custom Charms without actually taking Lunars 201 at the feet of the writing team.

If you consider it as a work of deliberate craftsmanship, the proposed disguise Charm is troublesome because the Lunar can deliberately shape her own features, but only depending on whether the result falls into an arbitrary category (does this face already exist). That’s an odd limitation if the Lunar is consciously reshaping her own features, especially when you take into account that the category in question is also a fuzzy one, since you can eat someone’s face and remove them from the list of existing faces.

This kind of hinky logic, while it doesn’t really hurt the Charm much in isolation (because you can just invoke Chicanery-No), is bad as part of a Charmset because it doesn’t set a good precedent for how Lunar magic works and what further Charms should be able to do.

John:
Yes, 100%. Rand gets it.

Lea:
Ha! You just proposed a mechanism for exactly how the sacred hunt lets you take a particular face!

Tokezo Tenken:
If it’s a matter of deforming an entire set of charms for a type of Exalt, then we would have to see the charms in totality before we could even start to comment. Note: I’m not asking to see the charm set in totality.

John:
I’m not discussing a Charm being written. There’s no set to see. The object of this exercise was to see whether people thought this basic limitation was problematic or okay and why. It requires someone advocating for it being problematic. I am not asking for anyone’s help to write, visualize, or understand a mechanic. I am trying to show how difficult it can be to put limitations on a shapeshifting power.

If you ask me, I have an ambivalent feeling toward this Charm’s stipulation. I like it because the players readily accept and understand it. I also like it because it suggests a step upward in a Lunar’s progression toward becoming a shapeshifter. I distrust it because the progression seems artificial; the stipulation makes perfect sense within the mechanics of the game, yet it makes arguably no sense within the broader logic of shapeshifting. Lunar shapeshifting in itself is full of broad contradictions as well.

Tokezo Tenken:
That makes sense. Also I can see how difficult putting limiters on an amorphous type of power such as shapeshifting can be. I do think, though, that Exalted requires player buy-in when it comes to charms and various other powers. The player-base is used to structure even if it’s been… unevenly applied in the past. As long as you’re consistent, I think you’ll be okay in the end.

John:
Yes, precisely. Player buy-in is why we believe in some forms of magic but not others. I think that player buy-in is based heavily on formalized and consistent logic set out in the text of the book.

Tokezo Tenken:
Apologies, by “argument” I mean it in the sense of “stated position” is all, not as in “dispute.” Would it be out of bounds to ask if the comparison could be restated with the requested parameters of feedback? I think I at least may have gotten turned around.

John:
No worries! I will try to make a redraft of the original concept.

“a shapeshifting power that allows a Lunar to change their human features to fit a general but not a specific desire. Therefore, they could change themselves to look like a pristine scarlet-haired woman with a certain build and height, but they could not become the Scarlet Empress. With this power, the Lunar may change their entire appearance, even their gender, but they may not change themselves to impersonate another specific character.”

Did I miss anything?

Wolfwood2:
You missed the very interesting question raised earlier in the thread of whether the Lunar could abandon the form and then later return to that specific form again. By the new logic of the power, I would say not, since a general desire is not going to yield the same results the next time you try it. However, that definitely reduces the general utility of the power still further. Now it’s basically a thing for spur of the moment disguises, not new identities.

John:
Yes, that is definitely how the Charm reads.

An issue with the Charm’s logic crops up almost as soon as you think about it. But is it a problem?

John:
Let’s evaluate it based on a clause that lets you return to a previous unspecified form you have taken.

This clause would allow you to generate more true forms without actively engaging in the Sacred Hunt. This clause shows that the Charm negates itself.

John:
First problem with this Charm:

Lets say you turn into a very attractive unspecified character using this Charm. As you are walking through the streets of Nexus, a Solar looks down from their balcony and spots you. The Solar is so taken with your beauty that they memorize it perfectly, using an eidetic form-capturing power a Solar can certainly have.

The Solar then goes down to their sorcerous laboratory and builds an absolutely perfect, flawless copy of your unspecified character and gives it life through a sorcerous working.

This character has its own persona, identity, and emotions. It is fully human and though it is discovering its personhood for the first time, it is obviously now a specific character.

While still in the form of the unspecified character, you meet your perfect double on the street. What happens?

The Charm negates itself by either forcing you out of your current form or by keeping you in the same form and ignoring the rules of the Charm. More likely the latter, because Storytellers tend to be cool like that, and it might be genuinely fascinating to think about why the Charm negates itself. (Which I think some people upthread said is why they actually like it.)

Tokezo Tenken:
As a thought exercise, I can see where this might be problematic at least in potential, but whether the ST is cool with letting the Lunar player keep the charm, it was the ST that set the situation up in the first place. You can’t legislate ST superdickery.

John:
I don’t think it’s dickery tbh. I just think people play the games and make different interpretations.

I also have to evaluate mechanics based on Charms that haven’t been written yet, because oh my gob I have so many Charms to write in the future.

Sunder the Gold:
“This Charm allows the Lunar to change their human features. She may change her age, height, proportions, gender, and coloration to highly specific degrees. In regards to her facial structure, she is limited to broad strokes, adopting the nuances of a specific ethnicity she has seen or imagined. In essence, a Delzhani Lunar can make herself appear as if born a Dynast, but this does not mean she can make her face mimic that of a specific Dynast, just as she could not make her face mimic that of a fellow Delzhani. At most (by manipulating the factors she can control specifically) she might appear related to the Dynasts of a specific house.”

I’m out of time to refine this paragraph further this morning.

John:
You have a natural Charm-writing voice.

Mejiro_Night:
That does seem a rather specific edge-case – if the charm just lets you be ‘generic person of demographic origin ‘ and is non-repeatable in specifics, then it mostly resolves itself (although I suppose a solar using a perfect disguise charm or a Sidereal with a ‘steal someone’s appearance’ would also allow similar effects). You can keep the appearance until it expires, then you can use the charm again and you might look similar-ish, but as the charm states, you can’t imitate a specific person. This is vaguely circular as you can’t imitate yourself imitating a generic person of whatever details, but I don’t think it breaks particularly. A charm that lets you return to the same face again and again would still work – the main limitation is that you can’t use it to fake being someone else, if someone else uses shenanigans to make someone else look like ‘you’ then it’s still good, because you’re not pretending to be someone else, there’s just someone else that happens to look like ‘you’ wandering around.

John:
I think that’s a very sound explanation and interpretation of the mechanics of that Charm.

SmilingBeast:
I’m curious what you think of the observation I made right after this hypothetical Charm was presented for discussion. Specifically, the issue of Lunars taking their own shapes and the shapes they’ve stolen – TRUE shapes – vs FALSE shapes they’ve made up. I don’t have an opinion on the way it SHOULD be, but is this kind of thing an issue to consider in 3E Lunar design?

John:
It is worth considering. If you can take a “made up” shape you are effectively getting around Heart’s Blood. As I made clear in the “Ask the Developers” thread, any option you give the Lunars to get around taking Heart’s Blood is going to transform how they are seen. Like if I gave them the Ability to grasp a target and absorb it, thereby taking its shape by merging with it, and allowing the Lunar to contain hundreds of these captured forms, which it could later release alive and unharmed. Suddenly the Lunars are this creepy-assed thing sorta like Pennywise? They are far more amorphous and nasty than something that just eats its prey to take on its power, which is a belief of many tribal myths.


Lord Raziere:
hm, I’m wondering.

lets say we make a few hypothetical Exigents.

an Exigent of Shapeshifting

an Exigent of Barbarism

an Exigent of Animals

an Exigent of Survival

an Exigent of Cthulhu

an Exigent of Witchery

Holden:
Not trying to bag on you when I say this, because it’s a super-intuitive first approach and it took us a while to figure out the wisdom I’m about to impart:

That is one of the worst ways to go about designing Exigents. It nets you a superhero rather than an Exalt about eight out of ten times. Unless an Exigent springs to mind full-formed, when you’re fishing about for them you almost always want to start with the god, not a concept. (Consider the different inherent thematic shading between “Chosen of Storms” and “Chosen of a Storm Mother,” or “Chosen of Wilderness” and “Chosen of a Dog of the Unbroken Earth”)

Lord Raziere:
good to know, they’re not intended to be actual Exigents, they’re just for sake of example….

Lea:
Fair enough, but… your followup question:

Originally Posted by Lord Raziere:
how would Lunars be different from each one?

Lea:
The Lunars would be different from each one because you don’t have an Exigent of Animals, you have an Exigent of This Particular Animal God, and the manner in which your Exigent of This Particular Animal God is going to differ from a Lunar will flow, quite freely and clearly, from the nature of This Particular Animal God. Likewise… Exigent of Shapeshifting…? Is there a God of Shapeshifting? Have there ever been that?

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be! I’m saying if you can’t come up with the actual specifics of your hypothetical God of Shapeshifting, then you don’t have a developed God of Shapeshifting yet and can’t make an Exigent of Shapeshifting who was Chosen by it. And if you do have the specifics of your actual God of Shapeshifting, then it’ll be pretty clear how your Exigent of Shapeshifting differs from Lunars, because you’ll be able to draw on the specifics of your God of Shapeshifting when coming up with your Exigent.

Paradim:
I think that the point may be that the character of the deity that is Exalting someone has a significant impact on the resulting Exalt. For example that, if Luna had lost to Zatesh in her crucible, with Zatesh being the deity of the moon that Creation knows, then the Lunar Exalted of Zatesh would be very different than the Lunar Exalted of Luna.

Least, that’s my interpretation.

Delgarde:
Yeah, that’s my read, too. An Exigent is the Chosen of a specific god – not of that god’s divine portfolio. They’re not a volcano-Exigent – they’re the Exigent created by a particular god who happens to have domain over a volcanic island in the West. And likewise, Lunars are the Chosen of Luna – not the Exalted of some abstract concept of shapeshifting and stuff. The god is of utmost importance to the process…

Wolfwood2:
That implies a truly impressive amount of teamwork between the Maidens, that they could end up with a single Exalt type differing only by caste rather than five separate exalt types. Perhaps the closed charmset isn’t their whim but was a necessary component of the entire process.

Lea:
The Celestial Incarnae are numinous and transcendent in ways other gods are not. Also handwave handwave.

LordofArcana:
Something that struck me as off was being a Chosen of a particular Dog of Unbroken Earth. Perhaps very closely related and possibly weaker gods would work together to exalt someone? So there wouldn’t be a chosen of a particular Storm Mother, but rather the Chosen of Storm Mothers (with some not having participated). Of course if a particular Storm Mother distinguished herself sufficiently from her fellows, that would be different.

More powerful gods wouldn’t need that kind of help, but if they are sufficiently similar they still could take advantage of the possibility.

Lea:
The Exigence is the help weaker gods need to Exalt their own champions. Ten Sheaves was just a Field Guardian, remember — that’s a particular type of god, down around the power level of Dogs of the Unbroken Earth and somewhat weaker than Storm Mothers. He wasn’t Heroic Field Guardian, Distinct From All Other Field Guardians; he was just some tiny Terrestrial god who stepped up when stepping up was needed.

Lord Raziere:
So….its more about the god than the concept?

that IS unintuitive. which means I’m going to have to figure out the god I want draw upon beforehand, which means he would have his own character and methods and so on and so forth.

which means I’d basically have to make an extra character just to make one hero. thats kind of annoying, even if it does allow for a lot of personalization. it means that one volcano god Exigent is different from another though.

I should probably start now, just to get that out of way for the concepts I want…

Lea:
Making up a good whole Charm set is difficult, and Exigents are the homebrew Exalted splat. The Exigent hardcover is not going to present one single, unified Exigents Charm set for all Exigents to use; it’s going to have a few examples and a lot of help for STs, presented both as mechanical precedents and prose advice, on how to make new Exigents from scratch including their Charm sets. I have very little doubt that one of the pieces of advice it’ll offer is “Start by making up the god who created the Exigent; this may seem like extra work, but having it done will actually save you a lot of work later when it comes time to make your Charm set come off as interesting and not just one-note.”

hippokrene:
How is a Lunar different from an Exigent of Luna? Or are they the same thing?

Lea:
As far as I know, there aren’t Exigents of Luna. She doesn’t need to petition the Unconquered Sun to provide her access to the Exigence to create Exalted, and if she tried he’d probably sort of look at her and be all like “Srsly?” The Exigence is for gods lesser than the Incarnae, to help them do something only the Incarnae among the gods could really do without that help.

Lord Raziere:
because you’d think that at some point there would just be y’know…some commonalities? there is only so many ways you can say “this fire magic is different because…” even the Exigents will eventually have things in common

Lea:
They’re going to have things in common in the same sense that a Solar and a Lunar multiattack Charm might resemble each other mechanically, because there’s only so many good ways to model multiattacking. But even so, a Solar and a Lunar multiattack Charm are not going to be mechanically identical, and neither are a forest fire Exigent’s fire Charms and a volcano Exigent’s fire Charms. If you want to make an Exigent of fire, start by figuring out what kind of fire god it might be fun and interesting to play the Exigent of; if you want to specifically play “The Exigent of the most generically firey fire god that could exist, because I want to play a guy with fire powers and not a guy with this specific god’s fire powers” you’re gonna have a bad time.

(Look at it this way. You could play the Exigent of a fire god who is also a catgirl.)

nexus:
As I understood the setting logic behind the term Exigent is a just a type or class of Exalt (like Terrestrial vs Celestial), the unusual one offs (typically) that gods below the Incarna level can produce in the right circumstances. So an “Exigent” of Luna or the Unconquered Sun would basically be a Lunar or Solar respectively if they ever choose to create a Chosen that way.

John:
All true. As a side note, the Incarnae can’t use the Exigence to make more Chosen.

Lord Raziere:
……..argh, silly me trying to use logic and consistency for mythical powers, what was I thinking.

That combination does sound good though, if oddly unconnected, I have to make some way of associating the two things. now Exigent of a shadow god that is also a catgirl…..much more plausible, as cats being nocturnal are associated with shadow.

Blaque:
Nothing stops a god who happened to be feline in features and shape who also happened to be about fire and such. If not a cat I can easily imagine at least a fox. I’m using the browser named for that right now. I mean there are war gods associated with sharks, bulls, ravens, hawks, wolves, and effing dragons right now.

But a big factor seems to be not just making the god’s purview important, but also its personality and impact on things. What personality it has and such.

Lord Raziere:
Yes, but the war gods all make sense. sharks, bulls, hawks, wolves and dragons are all predators while ravens are similar enough to crows to merit a “scavenger” association. as far as I can recall, the only cat could possibly have any connection to the sun are lions.

your telling me that the Exigents design is basically just “mash up whatever you think is cool no matter how unconnected into a singular divine champion” is that correct?

Lea:
No, there has to be some sort of an underlying consistency, but nothing stops you from deliberately setting out to challenge yourself by beginning with a few seemingly-unconnected elements and then trying to create something consistent out of them. Sometimes you will fail! Sometimes you’ll make something that’s kinda lame! That just means you have to start again.

Now, the obvious problem here is that if you go e.g. “Okay, lava pouring down the side of a mountain can look sort of like a slithering snake depending on the contour of the rock it’s pouring down, so how about a volcano snake?” is that a lava-snake spirit probably works best as an earth elemental, and elementals don’t get Exigents. So, on the downside, that didn’t work, but on the upside I just had an idea for a cool new earth elemental. Score!

(Also, bulls aren’t predators.)

“Fire exigent” remains pretty one-note, though. The goal is to create a notable hero chosen by the gods in the vein of mythic narrative, not the Human Torch. So, yeah, make a cat-shadow god and then make a shadow-exigent associated with cats and darkness and things. Make a lion-sun god who’s one of the Unconquered Sun’s lieutenants from ages and ages ago, and then make a sunfire-cat Exigent.

Anu:
To Wikipedia!

So the common mythological symbols of the snake are fertility and rebirth, guardianship, poison and medicine, and vengefulness and vindictiveness. You can easily build a volcano god out of that.

Rebirth: Volcanic ash kills most of the plant life, which then regrows because of the fertility of volcanic soil.

Guardianship: Moats of boiling lava make for excellent protection.

Poison: Volcanic ash and fumes are toxic.

Vengefulness: Volcanic eruptions happen when the god is angered.

It’s really easy to make a volcano god who has the shape of a snake.

(I know that’s not the point, but I really, really love how mythography can create common associations between two seemingly unrelated elements if you look deep enough. I’m just a nerd that way.)

Lea:
This is genuinely great. (And if you did it again with cats, you could probably make a good catgirl-volcano-goddess and justify an Exigent who has genuine mythical resonance while simultaneously appealing to someone who wants to play a catboi-fire-Exalt the same way Solars are appealing to people who just want to play Cloud Strife. Exalted has never really shied away from “Okay, if we do it well, we can afterwards admit it was all an excuse to play Sephiroth, really.”)


Dulahan:
Honestly, I don’t know what they are to me anymore.

They never were what I wanted after the original Core 1e book, and that “Illusionist” edge is a big thing I always wanted more focus on. Instead they lost a lot. And the depictions they gained never really did it for me either.

John:
Do you mean “Illusionist” in the sense of casting phantasmal force?

Lea:
Speaking personally, I mostly just wanted to be able to e.g. make a dilapidated mansion appear whole and luxurious, because of that one thing the fox-shifter did in Sandman: The Dream Hunters1. Not so much phantasmal force or silent image as being able to cast seemings on things to make other people perceive them as other things. So, gold coins that are actually leaves, regal garments that are actually peasant rags, etc. EDIT: Possibly a beautiful carriage that’s actually a pumpkin.

I don’t really want it anymore, though, because it’s closely associated with a method of shapeshifting where e.g. once you notice that the beautiful woman has a fox-tail poking out from under her dress, you look at her face and realize she has actually been a fox in a dress the whole time, OMG, and that’s not really how Lunar shapeshifting should work. Tying Lunar shapeshifting to the physical but then giving them a bunch of powers that make the most sense given a much more trickery-and-illusion shapeshifting paradigm leads to incoherence.

1. Sandman: The Dream Hunters is a standalone original pastiche of Japanese fairy tales by Neil Gaiman, in which the character of the Sandman only appears tangentally; it is mostly about a monk. He goes to a remote temple where he’s pestered by a shapechanging fox and badger, but the fox falls in love with him, and then later it turns out he was sent there by a court magician who had forseen his own doom and was using ritual magic to inflict it on the monk instead. There’s a bit after the monk dies and the fox takes revenge where she makes the magician fall in love with her, and then gets him burn all his belongings and follow her to a remote country estate, where he compliments her on the decor and fine food and she goes “Yes, and to think, if I hadn’t been here, you might have had to sleep in a dilapidated old mansion and dined on mice and spiders!” My very first thought when reading the 1e Lunar description was “Awesome; I’mma make a Lunar character who can do that.” And then of course it turned out Lunars can’t do that.

John:
This sounds amazingly cool, but how do you do it without messing with the Loom of Fate and without casting phantasmal force? Evaluate it separately from what you’ve been told about Lunars and just from the standpoint of what you know about Essence.

Lea:
Maybe “Under the light of a waning moon, the eyes play tricks — a gnarled branch may seem as a grasping claw, or a [insert other example of thing looking like other thing in dim light here that isn’t something lame like a coat on a rack looking like a stranger in the hallway]. A Lunar may give one thing the appearance of another.”

John:
This is still the action of a phantasm, by shifting moonlight or Lunar Essence. I’m not trying to be a bickerer here, and I’m certainly not saying that phantasmal powers are bad.

Lea:
There’s really no way to get away from ephemeral phantasms here, because the alternative — literally shaping things into other things — is if anything even lamer. I never liked Lunar Charms that let them take one thing and make it pliable so they can turn it into another thing, so that leaves us with persistent holograms or some sort of mind-whammy effect. (And anyway it’d be dumb to do the my-mansion-is-actually-a-hovel trick with a literal stuff-is-pliable-like-clay Charm.)

I think it can be made acceptable by putting in a bit of text in the Charm about moonlight, but I don’t write Charm sets!

That said, when people lament Lunars losing illusion powers, I think they are mostly lamenting the loss of powers like that depicted in Sandman: The Dream Hunters, and they don’t have an answer for how those powers can be well-portrayed because, d00d, they want to pay us game designers to answer that question! That’s why they buy books!

John:
I’m not sure lame is the word I’d want to use. I would say that it’s incongruous with the power of shapeshifting.

Lea:
Yeah, I don’t have a solution. If one is sufficiently attached to that sort of trickery-and-illusion motiff and the idea that it should apply to Lunars, the obvious solution is to proclaim that obviously, Lunar magic should not just be about physical shapeshifting, but about all sorts of things that relate to it — physical shapeshifting but also mental trickery and hypnosis-style make-you-believe-things powers, and casting seemings and conjuring holograms, etc.. And while it would be pretty easy to justify including all that under the domain of Luna, goddess of the night and trickery and misdirection and things, the result can easily come across as incoherent. This is how we got Lunars 2e. I would like some way to reconcile it all, but I don’t have one.

John:
Well, shapeshifting and phantasmal illusions are two very different and very powerful abilities. They are not necessarily inversions, but they aren’t of a same set either. I think it’s safer to say that they are conversions of one another. If I allowed Lunars to pick shapeshifting or the power to project illusions, I would quickly have people demanding that they should get both and that a disconnect is unreasonable, even if I were to explain the logic of the division in-text. I don’t see the gain being worth the subtraction from the “were-thing” side of the design, which is already going to be super complex and difficult to resolve.

LordofArcana:
People are surprisingly unobservant and take a lot for granted. A quick-witted Lunar can easily take advantage of this for smaller objects. Doing so for a structure is harder, but still possible. All of this would fade under careful examination, but I don’t see why Lunars couldn’t do supernaturally effective stage magic.

John:
I completely agree, but that’s a whole other sort of illusionist.

LordofArcana:
If they can pass off leaves as money and a dilapidated structure filled with cobwebs as a mansion with beautiful tapestries, does it matter that they are actually taking advantage of a trick of the light?

John:
They can’t do that, and yes it does matter.

LordofArcana:
In this case I am confused as to what you meant when you said you agreed with me. My argument was that Lunars can cause seemingly miraculous illusions, and they do so through physical manipulation and awareness of others’ points of view (in this case quite literally). A Sidereal manipulates fate, a raksha creates a phantasm, but a Lunar uses a trick. In each case the practical result might be quite similar, but the process is very distinct.

What was your thought on the matter?

John:
It means I agree that Lunars can do illusionist stuff, but illusionist stuff doesn’t include changing the way someone views reality.

Shamana:
Alright… I was hoping for something more than basically mundane legerdemain and trickery,

John:
Sounds reasonable for the quixotic and mysterious Changing Moons to have more than just petty tricks. I should note here that I think sleight of hand is pretty amazing, though, especially if you can trick a god with it.

Shamana:
perhaps being able to induce hallucinations, hypnosis,

John:
I definitely plan to look into this. Not making any promises, but I see this as fertile ground.

Shamana:
or using essence to create ephemeral constructs – a bit like how the Glorious Solar Saber and similar charms, but with something much more dispersed and malleable.

John:
As much as I hate being the bad guy, I detect a fair number of problems with Lunars projecting phantasmal force.

John:
I read several Coyote myths from a book at the university library tonight.

In not one of them did he change shapes or cast an illusion.

SmilingBeast:
There definitely is the issue of people asking for Coyote influence in their Lunar trickster abilities, and linking that to the shapechange discussion, when that really isn’t Coyote. Kitsune, sure. Wukong, definitely. Coyote? You need the Manipulation Excellency, a ton of imagination, and an irritating laugh.

John:
In terms of being tremendously good liars and con artists, yes Lunars will be great analogs for Coyote and Anansi.

Paradim:
Hrm… Coyote is an anthropomorphized entity. In some of the stories, he’s talked about as a coyote, some stories he’s talked about as a man and other stories he’s not really given a specific description of being either a coyote or a man, because he’s Coyote and whether he’s a coyote or a man doesn’t matter for the purpose of the story of Coyote being Coyote.

I find it similar to how Zeus isn’t described as the Greek deity of Shapeshifting, despite him taking the form of animals in all sorts of stories.

So, I would not say that Coyote is lacking in inspiration for a shapeshifter, especially if you’re looking at how a Lunar character can become famous (or is that infamous?) as both the Lunar as a human and the Lunar as their preferential animal.

John:
I find Coyote and Anansi to be very interesting and likely candidates for Lunar inspiration!

But they have specifically been brought up to me in this thread and on the Ask the Devs thread as part of an argument for illusion magic or the power to freeform shapeshift, and in my admittedly limited explorations, which I vow to expand, I have yet to see how they have become such a talisman for fans who want to see that happen. I’m not saying that they’re wrong, and I plan to keep reading, but to be honest it’s beside the point, because even if Anansi is switching shapes by stealing the face of anyone who blinks in his presence, and even if Coyote reveals himself to be the master of kanzen saimin, it wouldn’t change any of the problems with those ideas given over to Lunars.

Paradim:
…To be honest, I really get this vibe in general discussions of Lunars and Shapeshifting, that if a Lunar Exalted just stuck to the stuff they get from their Spirit Shape, then they’re a shitty shapeshifter. Like if you’re not constantly expanding the options of what you can shapeshift into, then you’re doing it wrong.

I don’t think that’s what you mean to imply or suggest. I just see it creep up a lot.

John:
Yeah, that’s an attitude I see a lot as well. And it is makes very little sense to me.

Paradim:
I really do support Lunar Exalted being shapeshifters that can expand in breadth and pull off Beast Boy shenanigans, because that’s fun, but I also hope that there’s plenty of support for Lunar Exalted being shapeshifters who are strong in being who they are, whether that’s the Lunar as a man or the Lunar as wolf or whatever animal they particularly identify with, and not be seen as ‘wasting’ their capabilities or not being a proper Lunar.

…Huh. I said a lot more than I initially intended. I guess that’s just been something that’s been bugging me on this particular topic.

John:
That’s intriguing, and I think I agree with you, but I am not certain. Could you elaborate?

Paradim:
Moonlight trickery, kitsunebi (aka will-o-the-wisps), kitsune are known for crafting illusions for trickery, the Ramayana and Mahabharata (sweet friggin cripes the Exalted inspiration here!!) have the Rakshasa who are shapeshifting demons who are powerful warriors, magicians and illusionists.

I don’t think it’s random. There are legends out there of shapeshifting creatures who have powers of illusion. We’ve had Sun Wukong mentioned by someone multiple times and that’s from Journey To The West which is listed inspirational material from the Exalted 2nd Edition Core. Why does it seem random when the books have pointed specifically to shapeshifters known to have illusion powers?

Frankly, I wouldn’t want to box off illusion magic as a “Lunar” thing. Let all the Exalted get in on it! I’d want Air-Aspects playing with sounds in the air to make you hear what they want you to hear, I’d want Fire-Aspects playing tricks with the light from torches or fireplaces, ‘phantasm’ is a deadringer descriptor for Abyssals and I’m 100% positive that Holden can come up with illusionary tricks that Sidereals can play with.

Illusions are just fun for everyone and should be a sandbox everyone gets to play in! ^.^

John:
I would like to see where the books pointed to those things as part of the Lunar design, so I can adjust my thinking.

It’s not that Lunars can’t or won’t have illusion magic, it’s just an issue of how it will be balanced against their shapeshifting, which is going to be very powerful. Free-standing, free form illusions are one of the most powerful effects you can get. It implies the ability to make multiple Solars and Sidereals see something that’s not there and draw conclusions which are incorrect, before dice ever come into play. The ability to work this kind of change on the world around you also doesn’t match the jutsu nature of Lunar Charms or how they interact with their Essence. Forcing an illusion on a single target through some means of contestable delivery is possible* within this design, but it would be far less powerful because it would be single target and contestable.

*though I am not guaranteeing it, since the rest of the mechanics have to be written.

Tokezo Tenken:
As a general note, I find this an acceptable stance on Lunars. I’m simply pointing out that something we consider illusory is very different from what other cultures might consider, especially when removed from modern context although certainly not exclusive of modern context either.

John:
Yes, there are multiple definitions of illusionist and different ways of being a Trickster. It’s why I have to be very clear in separating the meanings, because I don’t want people to think I’m saying “yes” to something I’m not, or “no” to something I’m not. In general, I am trying not to say no to anything, but to shine light on the design logic (without spoilers) to explain some of the reasons why X might happen but maybe not Y.

Quotes from the 1st edition core:
Those Lunars who retain their sentience also have a deep connection to the unconscious mind, and they can use this to create complex and deadly illusions or to evoke primal emotions – love, rage, despair and the like – in the minds of those around them, friend and foe alike.

Flibbertigibbet:
There’s a rich mine of potential in that statement. Personally, I guessed this would be something like Malkavian Dementation, except with a more positive flavor, and maybe a touch of Cliomancy and a couple of Bard Buffs.

John:
What I am specifically looking for are the design points that reference–indirectly or otherwise–the material he is citing.

Tokezo Tenken:
I’m not sure I’m parsing your statement correctly. Do you mean source inspiration?

John:
Na, just wondering if he sees some design point that I don’t. I see similarities but not the more damning absence of not being able to do what a direct progenitor of the Lunars could do. Which I know, was not his point. I’m not saying it is. But I have to evaluate resources based on the most extreme expectations. If I say “yes like Kitsune” and it’s only because your Lunar can have fox tails, then people who expected something else and didn’t get that are going to think I lied to them.


Rand Brittain:
At this point I think the biggest thing that seems to stand in the way of my saying anything about the Lunar Exalted or having opinions about them is that I no longer know what their mythic inspirations are supposed to be.

At one point I would have said Anansi, Loki, Sun Wukong, or Baba Yaga, but now it feels as though any of all of those are not a part of the intended design. Although it’s hard to be sure because I know so little about what that design is.

John:
Inspiration might mean as much as having one similarity, or being a direct port of something else. The Exalted are not a direct port of real world mythology. There are some deliberate similarities, though.

“Sell Me on Exalted Third Edition” Thread Summary

Now that I’ve gotten the developer Q&A summaries up to date, I figured I’d look for other dev notes to compile. So here’s the relevant developer and writer commentary from July’s “[Sell me on] [Exalted+] Exalted Third Edition” thread on RPG.net.


DoctorDogGirl:
What is this Edition going to be ABOUT?

What will make it different?

And why should I pick it up along with all of its supplements? About the only thing I know of is the Liminal Exalted.

Holden:
There are a lot of answers to that. On the most simplistic level, it’s still Exalted. You’re still playing the Chosen of the gods in the desperate twilight of an age of magic, wonder, and heroes, warring for love and passion and greed and ideology among the ruined splendors of a lost age of even vaster glories.

On one level, it’s a re-focusing on the game as a pulp fantasy revival. EX2 experienced kind of uncontrolled scope creep and in a sense it became about whatever element of sci-fi or pop fantasy or weird fiction that any given writer wanted to pull into the game. EX3 pushes the giant cthulhoid monstrosities and exhaustive laundry-list of First Age car alarms to the margins to re-focus on greedy kings and desperate heroes and wicked sorcerers and petty gods as the foundational bedrock of play.

On another level, it’s a controlled expansion of the game’s scope. Creation is bigger, and there are more fantastic oddities out there at the edges of the world waiting to be uncovered than ever before, from the sorcerer-kings of the Dreaming Sea to the Lunar/Dragon-Blooded war over the shrines of the Caul.

We’ve worked to recapture the game’s old weird fantasy feel, when it was this forgotten age of base ambitions and lost magic, and anything might be lurking around the corner– when the Exalted themselves were not yet quantified and nobody felt like they had an encyclopedic command of everything in the setting. Thus the new Exalts, the expanded map, the new West, the loose gods, the Ten Fathers of Volivat, the White Elixir, the thing that has awoken beneath Gloam.

System-wise, the game was re-built nearly from scratch to express the kind of game Exalted was always trying to be, without the hamstringing problem of trying to run a game of epic cinematic action and intrigue on a slightly-to-moderately overhauled version of the Vampire: the Masquerade engine. It has fairly tight balance, better scaling, and a hard focus on tactile communication of the feel of Exalted. According to most of the people who’ve gotten to try it out, it succeeds at those goals admirably.

You should pick it up because a) it does Exalted better than anything else has previously done Exalted, b) it’s full of new expanded coolness, and c) the supplement cycle is also full of new coolness.

Also 3e sorcery rocks and is full of flair, personal style, and functionality, rather than being this half-baked character trap that draws you in with the promise of coolness but doesn’t quite deliver. There’s that.

DoctorDogGirl:
Thank you, Holden!

Much appreciated and that clarifies quite a few things.

One thing I’m worried about is that I really thought Exalted was the one setting which emphasized, almost to the point of becoming a selling point, that they were movers and shakers in society. Exalted was a setting you couldn’t Metaplot because the idea was that the PCs would be changing things left and right: destroying Gem, breaking the Great Curse, slaying gods, overturning dynasties, and so on.

I’m curious what the expected power-level for the setting is going to be, honestly, and how that will affect the kind of stories to be told. One of the interesting things I discussed with my players was that you had the Terrestials for stories about Conan and the Gray Mouser, the Solars for Hercules and Monkey, and Lunars for….well, okay, Werewolf: The Apocalypse.

I’m curious what sort of power level the developers see for Third Edition and the kind of adventures Solars are expected to do. Be they, “We do the impossible” in figurative terms (“You stole the Perfect of Paragon’s harem!?”) or literal (“We slew Silence today!”). I’m also curious how the developers intend to handle game-balance between the various types of Exalted as the Tiers of Solar/Abyssal>Lunar>Sidereal/Alchemical>Dragonblooded thing was kind of built into the setting for better or worse.

I thought better, others thought worse.

Holden:
Well, you’re playing the reincarnations of the guys who slew and/or imprisoned the makers of the world and then brought all of Creation to heel for thousands of years of glorious golden hegemony. You are still those guys. But most of your works have crumbled to dust in your absence, and there are a whole set of different badasses sitting on your thrones. You may want to do something about that!

EX3 is a game where a starting Dawn can absolutely break armies single-handedly, but can also be brought down by a heroic archer in the moment he stops paying attention or treating his foes like real threats. Wrestling an angry gorilla into submission with your bare hands is an impressive feat rather than something not even worth breaking out the dice to resolve. Octavian is beatable, but very scary. Basically, the scope of accomplishment the game offered in previous editions is still there, but the cruise-control aspect that was somewhat present in 1e and really bad in 2e is gone– you don’t hit E4 and then get to just put up some scenelongs and turn your brain off as you smash the entire setting (absent the odd Deathlord) into jelly any more.

sakii:
This is something that i still cant understand. How can you single handed destroy an army and hava a challenge wrestling an animal??

Eric:
This attitude downplays how powerful and terrifying many animals can be.

Vance:
Single-handedly destroying an army isn’t exactly a trivial feat, either.

Lea:
Yeah, animals are dangerous. D&D’s traditional “Half as many hit dice as an owlbear, no fancy supernatural powers like troll regeneration or ghoul paralysis, claw/claw/bite attack routine, exchanges blows until dead” representation does not exactly live up to real the real historical or mythic mystique attached to, say, the Tsavo Man-Eaters.

Lea:
One of the disadvantages of traditional combat abstraction a la D&D is that things like gorillas and crocodiles, by themselves, are difficult to model in an interesting fashion. In many RPGs, something like a crocodile’s bite-grapple-roll would be modeled as, well, a bite attack, which you are free to narrate however you want… but which in the mechanics isn’t very fearsome — it’s hard to get worked up about a crocodile bite when you’ve just fought a young adult dragon, which has that same bite but with a higher to-hit and damage number, and also the dragon had a wing buffet and a breath weapon and some spellcasting it could vary its combat routine with. This contributes to people thinking of animals as mooks — if a combat opponent doesn’t have something exceptional (that is, modeled-in-an-exception-based-fashion, in the manner of breath weapons or a paralysis touch) to bring to the table, then who cares?

Exalted Third Edition most assuredly doesn’t have this problem. An army and a pair of lions bring different things to the table, and there are characters who would prefer to face one and characters who would prefer to face the other. We’ve ensured that even things that don’t have explicitly supernatural powers can be tactically interesting and a challenge to face. Which is really handy once dinosaurs enter the picture!


Yama Dai O:
Does the new game drop, retain or have a new angle on the CCG elements of first edition?

Vance:
As a long-time Magic: the Gathering fan, I think, subjectively, that it feels more like playing a CCG than Second Edition did (I never played 1E). While there isn’t a systemized mechanic for combos, the synergies between Charms and strategies that arise from them are still very much a thing, and the dynamic “flow” of momentum in combat creates an element of change that is similar to drawing a new card every turn. I can make my Dawn Caste an “aggro” fighter whose goal is to build up for a first-round alpha strike, or I can go for a more “control”-oriented build that plays the long game, and both have their strengths and weaknesses.

Holden:
There’s a lot of tactical depth to EX3*, which owes something to the CCG ambitions of 1e, but also a lot to fighting games and other stuff. 1e and 2e, for all the big Charm lists, never had much in the way of tactical depth, since the intended play tactics revolved around “force or trick the opponent into making a mistake,” where the mistake was very obvious (leaving yourself with no defense) and completely avoidable at all times by just doing the same thing (using a Combo with your defenses in it).

EX3 has a lot more moving parts and elements to worry about, less binary tools to manipulate them, and way more options to choose from. It is also hugely, hugely skewed toward group combat tactics, rather than 1v1 tactics that just happen to be taking place in a crowded room as was the norm with 1e and 2e. During the playtest, I could tell you with 100% accuracy which feedback emails were coming from people reading the packets and either theory-crafting scenarios or running small set-piece tests, and which ones came from people actually playing at a table, because the tactical paradigm transformed completely for the latter, and things that looked useless in white-room duels became powerhouse game-changers in group fights.

*I try not to toss that out as an idle boast. Many games claim tactical depth, but in my experience very very few actually deliver it.

taichara:
Goddamnit. There goes the long-held-in-abeyance plans of a single-player campaign for my flatmate, sounds like >_<

Holden:
Nah go ahead with that. The game plays very differently, but it doesn’t stop working.

MemoryBeast:
I’m fascinated by this. I know you can’t give detailed mechanical information, but is it possible for you to speak in general terms about some of the “tells” that showed which groups were actually playing and which were just theorycrafting? No specific Charms or anything, just the general tactics and options that reveal themselves in play but not in white-room?

Holden:
In MMO terms, imagine the difference between getting feedback from three groups that are trying to clear dungeons with five Mages, and one group that has discovered that one guy can ‘tank’ for everyone else, if someone else heals him. Tactical specialists open up all kinds of doors you just don’t see if everyone tries to build their character as a self-contained solo combatant– although even if they do that, the group that fights together and pays attention to what’s going on across the whole battlefield will trump the one that just pairs off into self-contained duels, almost every time.


DoctorDogGirl:
I mean, *I* play Solars and I use Dragonblooded but maybe, just maybe, I’d want to do an Alchemical game.

J. H. Frank:
Then you’d have to wait until the Alchemicals book, just like second edition. Or, come to think of it, first edition.

DoctorDogGirl:
True but I suppose the larger question is whether or not it might have been better to present the various Exalted options upfront.

Holden:
That would have definitely been better.

Also, impossible.

Alas.

Isator Levie:
Autochthon, Alchemicals and Warstriders will surely be in the game at some point, but… even discounting that the last one will be in the first place, they’ll hardly be part of the core experience of the game, and never have been.

I mean, what, does one need an assurance that Alchemicals are going to be in a book eventually before one consents to play games of Solars and Dragon Blooded and a couple of the others fighting for love and glory amidst the beautiful and merciless Creation? On what, a matter of principle?

Or is one not going to play those kinds of games in the first place, in which case the core book wouldn’t be useful for much anyway.

IntegralENT:
How about one eschews playing a game of Solars and DBs cause one does NOT WANT TO play a game of Solars and DBs, but wants to play a game with Alchemicals that doesn’t feel like it’s been tacked on as an afterthought?

Holden:
One will have to wait several years, until that supplement comes out.


Mengtzu:
I think it’s useful to understand Ex3 as not wanting you to invest less time in mechanics, but rather getting a significantly better return on that investment.

Unless you’re a GM, it does really want you to spend less of your life statting NPCs.

Holden:
This is entirely in line with what we tried to do with the game, yes.

Isator Levie:
Surely GMs are the only people who need to spend their time statting NPCs, and would certainly appreciate getting to spend less time doing it?

(I know that your sentence is meant to read “it doesn’t want you to invest less effort in character building unless you’re a GM who’ll want to easily make NPCs; this is what semicolons are for )

Holden:
He means that the only people it wants to invest less time in mechanics than previous edition are GMs, who will no longer be required to blow 15 hours on prep work for their game each week.


Lea:
I think if you’re in the position where personality mechanics like Limit seem obviously and axiomatically terrible, it can be difficult to hear “New, improved edition of Exalted!” and not assume “Okay, if their claims of improvement are true, they’ll be removing the obviously and axiomatically terrible bits.” See also: People who don’t like exception-based power-sets.

Nihnoz:
The only thing I can confidently declare obviously and axiomatically terrible in 3e is using different resources for chargen and advancement. That’s easy enough to houserule out, though.

AliasiSudonomo:
Also, it’s not ‘obviously and axiomatically terrible’. If your desire is to encourage a starting character to buy more of thing A than thing B, and to encourage acquiring thing B as a result of play, then it makes perfect sense to use a different scale in each case and at that point, you might as well call the two different currencies different names, too. The explicit advice on how to spend your bonus points gives that a lot of validity in my eyes. Now, that doesn’t mean I agree with it, necessarily – one of my first house rules will be to replace the geometric XP costs with something flatter, most likely, as my group does now – but it’s still not axiomatically wrong.

Black Flag:
Yeah, it helps to keep in mind why certain things are thought of as bad. Having multiplicative XP costs in combination with flat costs in character creation strongly encourages min-maxing. The thing is, in Exalted characters are kind of supposed to be min-maxed out the gate, since these are people with extraordinary skills in certain specific areas. So, annoying as it might be in something like WoD (hence their making it all flat in 2e), in Exalted it at least makes a kind of sense.

As for the other stuff, it never ceases to amaze me how many people were hoping that the new and improved Exalted would be made for people who didn’t actually like Exalted to begin with—or who kind of liked the idea of it but none of the actual particulars.

Kath:
The problem is less encouraging min maxing and more that it favours certain character concepts over others. And when I say ‘favours’, I don’t mean ‘is 5% more cost effective”, I mean “is 50% more cost effective”. This means that a player who picks a sensible but not system-favoured concept can be sessions and sessions and sessions behind in xp compared to someone with a system-favoured concept. By my rough calculations, the difference between the best and worst chargen choices if 50+xp, in a game where you get about 6xp per session. How is it fun to have someone be almost 10 sessions of xp down on another character?!

If the game genuinely wants to encourage people to build specific types of characters in character generation, that’s fine – just outright remove the newbie trap options, rather than keeping them in to preserve the illusion of choice. D&D 3.0 is often justifiably criticised for including deliberate trap options, but the degree of asymmetry you see with Exalted’s chargen is just as much of a deliberate trap as the Toughness feat.

For example, rather than giving a bunch of bonus points to spend as you want, why not limit them to the options that are favoured by the system? Being transparent in your rules is a good thing, and only makes the game easier and more fun to both run and play.

Holden:
1) Sometimes people want to make a thing. I would prefer to let them know what it is they’re buying, and then let them buy it if that’s still what they want.

2) This was a huge problem with EX2 because there was a certain way to build that let you crush the game, and a bunch of other ways that got you humiliatingly destroyed, and little space inbetween. This is not a problem EX3 has– just picking the stuff that describes the guy in your head will produce a powerful, effective character nearly every time.

Holden:
This is about the seven thousandth time someone has tried to do the chargen argument. The book’s text was set in stone back in January. This is a + thread. I’m really not interested in arguing about it.

Mattheq:
I’m not really trying to convince you, I just think it’s very strange you that you don’t seem to see the issue.

Holden:
Okay. I’ll bite. It won’t make you happier– it never does– but you pushed for it.

It’s a complex issue with a really obvious-looking first-contact summation which happens to be mostly wrong, but which most people fix on and never move past. I’m aware of everything you’ve said, and it’s the conclusion set that is arrived at after five minutes of looking at the issue. We’ve put probably twenty or thirty total hours of in-depth design tinkering and discussion into this subject. (Add in all the “Holden idly works the angles while taking a shower” time and that total triples or quadruples.)

The fact that I don’t share your conclusions is not the result of not understanding the subject, or failing to examine it.

I would like to leave it at “read the book, follow the chargen instructions and advice provided, and your entire group will end up with powerful, effective characters that match the concept you want to play and that will make you happy” and leave it there, because walking through the whole design-side breakdown of chargen and advancement from first causes to full ramifications for the thirtieth time is really exhausting.

I will say that we didn’t receive any playtester complaints about wild efficiency disparities stemming from chargen decisions, out of a pool of a couple hundred playtesters ranging from 2e veterans to first-time roleplayers. Think hard about that, because I can assure you the playtest pool 100% absolutely included people who hate Bonus Points.

Mattheq:
Okay. If you say you’re confidant character gen will work fine, I believe you. I’ve got a lot of hopes for the new edition, and I known very little about it so I’ll wait and see. It’s simply that the way you were responding made it seem like you were not aware of the degree of disparity possible in earlier editions, and that concerned me.

Thanks for responding.

Holden:
Even in earlier editions, the problem tended to be heavily misidentified, simply because it was easy to isolate as a thing and most reasonable human beings don’t want to spend countless hours dissecting failure states in gigantic complex rule-sets. Usually it was getting pointed at and blamed when the real problem was “certain informed character builds are orders of magnitude more powerful and useful than 98% of other builds,” and this remained true even if you built out of a huge bundle of XP. Give me totally flat and normalized creation-advancement rules, drop me in with a group of four other people who are all first-time players, and in 2nd edition, I can still build a character that can kill the entire rest of the group single-handedly without breaking a sweat. The fact that I can squeeze out more Ability dots than the guy who goes “KROG WANT MORE CHARMS” is the smallest variable influencing this result, but it’s also the easiest one to isolate, so it got to carry all the blame. The real problem is that the system itself was heavily exploitable in ways that were unintuitive to a first-time player, had lots of dead-ends that were not marked as such, and had lots of rules bits that didn’t actually do what they claimed they did (Flaws of Invulnerability, Intimacies).

Or to put it another way, this was a problem EX2 shared with D&D 3.5, which had completely flat and even creation and advancement. Uneven builds were not the real problem; the game containing shitloads of trap builds was real the problem, which uneven builds could exacerbate.

The real biggest problem with 2e chargen and advancement (and 1e chargen and advancement, too, but 1e didn’t have as much additional shit compounding the issue) is that some of the pricing was not only wildly out of whack with both advancement and the utility of the stats in question, but they then imposed a steep “character concept tax.” Virtues were the worst offender, followed by Essence and Willpower.

Edit: Also, that one “problem” was SO MUCH easier to “fix” than the problem of “the Charms are unbalanced, perfects are misconceived, the weapon and armor stats are all wonked, the combat engine is slow because it has two competing go-fast mechanisms, and the social combat rules don’t work very well.” The issue was that “fixing” that one “problem” didn’t significantly improve play once you did it, because it wasn’t the real culprit, just a minor amplifying factor.

Solar:
One might suggest that what you are saying doesn’t actually explain why one would keep the divide, if it’s a minor problem compared to a far more encompassing balance issue (which I agree it was) it’s still a minor problem that needs solving.

Holden:
Because it had a host of benefits that we highly valued, once the problems it was aggravating stopped existing.


Phaide:
Do you suppose we (backers) might see the PDF of the book this week prior to Gen Con? That would sell me on it.

Holden:
I would love that, but the PDF is not quite there yet. (Like, the current proof draft I’m going over, half the QC stat block for the yeddim mysteriously vanished somehow. That seems like the kind of thing you would want to fix before proudly going HEY GUYS LOOK AT OUR MASTERPIECE, you know?) We’re getting it ready as fast as we can, though, and it’s very close, at long last.


PrinceOfSwords:
Now, we know that there are over 300 charms in the book and 15 or so charms at character creation. A barrier for my group in the past has been that keeping track of that many discreet powers can be intimidating, especially if we have only one copy of the book to share. How lengthy are the charm descriptions in 3x? Would a first time player be able to quickly look over the available charms, select the ones that appeal to them (and be reasonably certain they chose “correctly”) and record them quickly in such a way that they can look back 2 weeks later and kick the monkey king in the tooshy?

Holden:
We built specifically to enable that, yep.

The total number of Charms in the book is over 700. The total number any given character can actually choose from at chargen is probably more like 50-60.

“Ask the Developers” Thread Summary, Post #15

This latest compilation of quotes from the RPG.net Exalted developers’ Q&A thread has caught up with the present! All Q&A info should now be available, at least until a dev responds to something new. Enjoy!

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


Wuse_Major:
Holden, the last Monday Meeting indicated that you guys have gotten to see a near final layout. So I wanted to ask, is it Awesome or is it Totally Awesome?

Holden:
It’s prettier than Cthulhutech.


sakii:
what is the best MA for a sailor?

Vance:
Snake, as ever, is a pretty sweet style for everyone.

Tiger can be extremely brutal in shipboard combat, but is much less effective if your enemies can just jump over the side and swim away from you.

Righteous Devil is probably not a good idea to use on a boat.

Crane is going to be having some crazy wuxia fun with the ship’s rigging.

Silver-Voiced Nightingale lets you weaponize sea chanties, which is pretty awesome.

White Reaper is useful for boarding an enemy ship and murdering everyone on it, but may sometimes be hindered by a boat’s inability to hold as many opponents as they want to be taking on.

Dreaming Pearl Courtesan is not particularly suited to a sailor’s life, unless the people you plan on doing grievous bodily harm to are on your ship.

Ebon Shadow is badass if you are willing to transgress the boundaries between pirate and ninja.

Black Claw is going to enjoy the audience that being on a ship generally entails.

Steel Devil will work fine, as long as you don’t have a hook-hand.

Single Point Shining Into The Void doesn’t really seem like the best match for the overall naval milieu, but that don’t stop it from being hella deadly.

Cod Of Justice:
I’m kind of terrified (in an impressed way) of what White Reaper style’s optimal number of opponents is if a boatload of enemies is potentially beneath it.

Vance:
The optimal number of enemies for a White Reaper is “how many you got?”

sakii:
do the martial arts need noral charms to supplement them??
Like if i have Single Point Shining into the Void do i need to invest in some melee parry charms??

Vance:
You won’t need Charms from any of the four main combat Abilities, but drawing on some of the “support” Abilities like Dodge, Resistance, or Stealth can be very useful. Which Abilities are relevant varies from style to style.

sakii:
Before we were talking about how using shining point and white reaper would make a nice combination.
What other styles would make a good combo?

Vance:
Snake+Crane and Tiger+Ebon Shadow are the first ones that come to mind.

Holden:
Those are scary-good combinations.


The Exigentleman:
Actual question: I think you’ve already been asked this a while back, but I’m not sure. I can’t find it, and don’t know if it’s changed anyway. So… how easy will it be to design custom Evocations? I’m not talking about anything too elabourate, just a few simple charms to make my weapon feel like mine. I’d imagine Arms of the Chosen would give more support, but will this be doable out of core?

Holden:
Doing up custom artifacts is pretty easy, although it’s not a paint-by-numbers process.


Kahbiel:
I completely understand if this query falls under too mechanical or too early to tell; but just in case it doesn’t.. Is Violet Bier of Sorrows a discreet martial art style, or the general Siderial Brawl package?

Holden:
That book is still years off.


Winwaar:
On an entirely random note, I’ve been wondering about something: How many sets of clothing would people from across Creation own/wear?

I mean, one assumes that the answer doesn’t change from peasant on the Blessed Isle to peasant near the Sea of Dreams, but say, a merchant on the Blessed Isle versus a Khan near Chiaroscuro versus a Lookshayan mortal member of the Legion, and so on.

It’s an interesting thought, I think.

Holden:
Clothing is a mixture of social function and practical necessity for most people in Creation, which is to say– you have your feastday clothes that you probably also wear to services because really why risk irritating the gods by showing up wearing boots that smell like yak shit? Then you’ve got your work clothes possibly several sets if you have a complicated job like smith or leatherworker that actually requires some safety gear. You probably have at least one hat; depending on regional fashions, you might have two, one being part of your nice social clothing. And you probably have a quasi-shapeless but comfortable thing you wear at home after the work is done.

If you’re a member of the upper classes, clothing is social competition and you are announcing your status and competing with your rivals with both the quality and variety of your wardrobe.

If you’re in the legions, you have your battle gear, and a dress uniform, and -maybe- something simple to go on leave with that shares boots with your other kit, because you get to carry all your possessions from place to place so weight is your primary concern.

There are wild exceptions in all directions, of course. In the most blasted extremity of the South, even the nobles of Zinanza go adorned in only sandals and sun-hats, with jewelry to mark their high rank. They receive miserable sweating cloth-wrapped envoys from other states with amusement. Meanwhile, over in Ysyr, the sorcerer-princes strive to give away clothing to favored servants after wearing it only once, and to be adorned in new finery every day, though only a few can truly afford such waste.

Lea:
Elegant restraint among nobles tends to pop up in cultures where the merchant class has gotten really rich and is discovering the wonders of being able to afford all the things — nobles tend to move into “Oh, well, I could be into conspicuous consumption, too, but it’s so gauche!” to distinguish themselves from the nouveau-riche.

Realm doesn’t really have nouveau-riche.

David J Prokopetz:
On the other hand, it does have a class of nobles whose nobility is regarded as more of a technicality hanging around. I could totally see un-Exalted Dynasts being into conspicuous consumption in a big way specifically because the lack the inherent distinction of Exaltation to set them above the common masses – and, in term, Exalted Dynasts being into elegant restraint in order to provide a pointed reminder to their less fortunate relations that they don’t have anything to prove.

(Of course, they have plenty to prove, but not in that particular context.)

Lea:
I think it’d work out the other way, with Exalted Dynasts living big and passing sumptuary laws to prevent un-Exalted Dynasts and patricians from joining in on the fun — and, indeed, the ban on use of jade currency for everyone but the Exalted sort of supports that.

(To be clear I am not a dev; if John or Holden think it should work some other way, it works some other way. But the decadent pageantry vs. tasteful minimalism is probably a secular/Immaculate split within Dynastic culture itself, rather than being a split between mortals and Dynasts.)

So.

Victim:
I disagree. The social conflicts at high levels in the Realm seem to be generally organized as a House with its DB and patrician members

Holden:
Patricians are upper-class individuals who are not part of a Dynastic Great House, btw. There’s no such thing as a patrician member of a Great House. Some parts of a few older books seemed to think “patrician” meant “un-Exalted mortal Dynast,” but it doesn’t.


Lea:
Traditionally, the Realm does tax farming, but in the Threshold satrapies. Gathering taxes from peasants on the Isle is done through the Thousand Scales and such funds go straight into the Empress’s pockets.

This has of course changed since the Empress disappeared, when suddenly Dynasts in the Greater Deliberative started passing laws to put (their own!) Great Houses in charge of gathering rent on the Isle, and allowing them to claim (ever-growing) percentages of such gathered rent as their own.

I think.


Daerim:
Are we going to hit the same beats in the metaplot this time around as in the last two editions? Things like the Empress disappearing to Malfeas? Not assuming that everything is going to be verbatim, but are we getting basically the same story over again?

Lea:
The Empress has still disappeared, and certainly she can still have disappeared into Malfeas if you want, but we’re not going the “We’re not saying she’s in Malfeas, but wink wink she’s totally in Malfeas you guys” route this time around.


Isator Levie:
I’ve had this thought about creating a clandestine network that communicates via numerous pre-arranged codes and ciphers, such as going to a stall across from a secret safe house where you know somebody will be watching, and picking a red comb is an indication that you’re under surveillance or a gourd is a request for new instructions.

If designing and engaging in this kind of system was within the scope of the mechanics (I would think it should be; it feels appropriate and dramatic that there should be the usual level of mechanical effort and uncertainty behind whether or not your established standards are both opaque to outsiders and transparent to initiates, and whether or not a character trying to send such messages is able to keep it straight in the moment), I wonder what Ability would be most suited to it. Bureaucracy or Larceny? Linguistics, even?

Vance:
Communicating with a member of a secret society through the covert watchwords or ciphers of that organization is probably something I’d call for a Manipulation + Socialize roll for, though I’d be open to players suggesting a different Ability.

Actually devising and promulgating a cipher prooobably isn’t that interesting of a thing to roll for, but I could see the arguments for Linguistics or Bureaucracy that could be made if one were gonna roll it.

Isator Levie:
I’m hoping to extrapolate a lot from the presentation of managing organisations in general.

I’m compelled by a combination of reading about the organisational methods and procedures of insurrectionist groups in Imperial China and early Twentieth Century Ireland, and points about the civil service manuals of Prussia at the time that it was becoming a Great Power; I place a lot of stock in the significance of having a system that keeps everybody on the same page and, in the former case, can keep interlopers from breaking into it.

That and examples of how things break down when somebody makes a mistake; when they mix up signals or confuse portfolios or are just paralysed with indecision, and it spirals into something that exposes weaknesses.

It intersects with Solars particularly because one of the implications I tend to draw from the idea of them is as somebody who is able to command or communicate a complex system with a lot of… grace, if not fine control. I like the idea of a Solar who could make a clandestine group that would really effectively fly under the radar by virtue of training them in secrecy in a way that would be necessarily complicated while still managing to dodge the kinds of errors that complicated systems become prone to.

I just keep trying to spread my thinking out to the ground level of a rebellion, and keep seeing all the points at which they could give themselves away, and try to think of uncanny means of addressing that challenge.

Really, when it comes right down to it, it’s the sort of thing that I see clear as day in the arrangement of the Guild in Masters of Jade. I would think that some level of mechanical engagement of the process of devising the Eternal Ledger and the Game of Masks would be warrented.

Vance:
Based on your post, I think you’re going to be real happy with the leadership rules.


Coikzer:
Like I said, the big two page artwork spreads makes me wonder if digital reading was considered at all when designing and laying out the book. It does make me doubt that the book will be up to modern standards of digital design, but we’ll see, I suppose.

Holden:
Exalted has had 2-page artwork spreads since the 1e corebook. Every nWoD book has them separating chapters. This is… not new or unusual at all, or in any way a layout challenge.

David J Prokopetz:
A crossover illustration doesn’t mean that the PDF suddenly jumps from singles to spreads when it gets there. It just means you only see half of the illustration at a time when viewing the PDF one-up. If you want to look at the whole thing while reading on a digital display, just turn your tablet sideways and flip your PDF viewer to two-up mode.

Holden:
Yeah. This is about as unusual and alarming as a car with four wheels. :-p

Hakushaku:
I’d be thoroughly disappointed if I paid $100+ for a Deluxe Print Book and got a book optimised for a handheld device.

Holden:
As would about half a million dollars worth of other people, I imagine.


sakii:
can you tell us how it is the change between “i want to learn sorcery” to “i am a sorcerer” story wise.

Vance:
There’s not just one story, so it’s hard to generalize.

Maybe you grew up in the alleys of Nexus, or Wu Jian, or countless other cities across Creation. Poverty, homelessness, and orphanhood marked you as prey for the strong, and whether it was your fists or your wits or your charm that you relied on, it was never enough. And then one day, while wandering the squalid wreck of an ancient temple, in search of food or treasure or a place to spend the night, the ground beneath you crumbled. You fell into an ancient ruin of a bygone age, and found the phylactery of a sorcerer-queen, an egg of brilliant amethyst. You held power in your hand, and teased out the secrets of spellcraft through trial and mishap. You don’t know the word sorcerer, but that doesn’t matter. The hunger pangs, the cruel men, the cold nights will never torment you again. All you lack for now is a purpose.

Maybe you grew up a changeling-child, spirited away from your crib to be raised in a raksha’s great palace of opal and chryselephantine. You thought nothing of reciting sing-song incantations of ancient spells, frolicking through the steps of eldritch rituals, and battening yourself on the souls your faceless father stole from the strange ape-people who huddled in their villages and camps. You grew up a sorcerer, and couldn’t imagine it being otherwise. And then the light of the sun shone in your heart, revealing the truth of what your master was. You smote him down with the very sorcery he had taught you, and ventured forth into Creation to atone for the sins of your childhood folly.

Maybe you came to the Isle of Voices full of pride and ambition, eager to enter the Heptagram and learn the eldritch arts of its sorcerous masters. You memorized alchemical formulae and arcane equations, observed the rituals of workings and summonings with a keen eye, and walked amid the strangeness of the Isle as a peer to the unknown. Your initiation was an instant and an eternity, a moment of satori as all the laws and principles you studied finally came together as something greater, finally clicked like the last lock of a puzzle box. You thought you had understood sorcery before, but as the cosmos unfolded before you, you realized the smallness of all the pride you had once borne.

Or something else!

sakii:
Are we going to have things like that in the core or the future book of sorcery??
Because those fictions always give me better ideas

Vance:
I came up with those off the top of my head, but all of them should be trivially easy to hack out of the corebook.

Part of the goal of sorcery was to make it very, very easy to translate a background story like those into a sorcerous initiation, instead of forcing you to contort your character’s past down a specific path in service of the mechanics.


Scoop Life:
A thing came up in the Blue Rose topic that intrigued me and I figured it might be neat in Exalted too. How hard would it be to have a winged cat as your companion? Like, just a normal cat, but with wings and it can flutter around and stuff. Not super intelligent or super powerful or etc. (Granted flight is a powerful advantage, but you know what I mean. I hope. >_>)

Beatrix:
Fairly easy, maybe not straight out of chargen but it is totally a thing that you can do with the right charms.

Holden:
You could do it at chargen by just taking Familiar •••, no muss no fuss.


SrGrvsaLot:
What level of sorcery does Mother Bog have in 3e?

Vance:
That’s probably something we’ll only find out when we write her.


sakii:
Im havin a problem of perspective here.
If i put Japan or the British Island in the map of Creation how big would they be relative to the other islands in the West??

Wolfwood2:
Maybe like about 1/3 the size of the Caul, I’d say.

Holden:
Hoo, no. The Caul is around half the size of Australia, as memory serves.

Wolfwood2:
Gives a different perspective on the West, doesn’t it?

sakii:
True, i always though that they were islands-cities that you could travel on foot but if all those pieces of land are so big than you can have hundreds of years of conflict without even leaving one island the West is fucking big.

Lea:
I tried really hard to get this across when developing Compasss: West, but don’t think I succeeded. But, yeah, to the extent that some place like Scotland can have hundreds of years of history of land-based culture and not too much focus on the sea, so can any given island in the West.


Shadowlost:
Will we see anymore of Mistress of Mirthless Smile?

Holden:
Probably!


sakii:
I just saw the brochure and Arms, The realm and Dragon Blooded wasnt there. Is it rigth to expect them to be released this year?

Holden:
I try not to tempt the fates these days :-p

But that’s the idea.

icarr757:
I think this is a great idea! However, logic jumped in and has me slightly confused. Please poke any holes in my logic as you will…

Ex3 core still needs to be indexed (no small task)

Holden:
Which is not my job and requires no work from me.

icarr757:
Then it needs to go off to CCP for the big red stamp of approval…

Holden:
Which is not my job and requires no work from me.

icarr757:
Then it comes back and the backer pdf goes out and backers comb thru it for 30 days sending in feedback/glitches they find

Holden:
Which requires some minimal work from me at some point in the future.

icarr757:
I have no doubt the writers can complete Arms and sorcery, and maybe even squeeze out a complete text version for Db by the end of the year. But a completed books with art/layout…? I still have major doubts a finalized Ex3 core pdf will be in backer hands before the end of the year with all that has yet to be completed.

Again, not taking a shot at the writers at all. The writing of these supplemental books may easily be done in their time frame, but transforming a wall of text into a book people want to buy? And the core book is still in layout with not insignificant steps to go before completion?

I am highly skeptical but I would LOVE to be proven wrong!

Holden:
I have no control over whether or not artists flake out and hold a book up by several months. Not my department.


Totentanz:
I own a lot of Exalted books, 1st and 2nd Edition. While I may want the crunch of Ex3, why should I buy books that are primarily fluff, like the Realm book? What is being offered in them that I don’t already have many times over?

Holden:
New plot hooks, different approaches to old material, solid writing, lots of old material that didn’t work very well in the past either re-imagined or pitched out and replaced with totally new stuff. In the case of The Realm and the Dragon-Blooded, heavily reinvigorated Great Houses[1] and a virtually brand-new Blessed Isle[2] are two of the big draws, along with a big chapter on the satrapy system that should help Storytellers represent the Realm beyond the confines of its homeland.

[1] House Iselsi is now scary as all Hell, and I am stoked about the Ledaal shadow crusade.

[2] You remember what was really cool about Ayreon Prefecture back in the day? Yeah, me either.

Totentanz:
Thanks! As a follow-up, are there are any significant improvements in the way you are approaching these fluff books over 1E/2E?

As an example, when I read the setting books from prior editions, most of it is well (enough) written. Some of it is just plain bad, or doesn’t fit, but mostly, it’s fun. However, it gets…tedious after a while. Not everything is Denandsor, or Nexus. Is there an effort to give every province/city/arbitrary geographical designation its own punch, some reason to make me read it and say “Hey, I can do something fun with this!” ?

Holden:
Nah we’re planning to fill the books with at least 50% shitty, uninspired writing with no plot hooks or points of mental engagement. 70% if we can swing it!

Come on man that is not an answerable question lol


abakus:
I’m relatively new to Exalted, but I’m absolutely in love with the vision y’all have put forward for third edition. One thing I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around is what you guys are planning to do with the two splats, Liminals and Getimians. Just with what we know, I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around what themes they’ll be exploring that will differentiate them from and illuminate their counterparts, the Abyssals and the Sidereals. Could you give us more info on how we might use these characters in a game? Will the storytelling chapters have material for what themes these Exalts explore? Thanks!

Holden:
The corebook is fairly light on them both, since they’re not playable yet– you get enough to use them as NPCs. The Liminal Exalted really have absolutely nothing to do with Abyssals aside from being sometimes located in the same neck of the woods, while the Getimians are sort of an inversion of the common themes of Exalted in general and the Sidereals in particular– what do you do when you discover that you had a great and shining destiny ready for you, but now you don’t because someone took it away? Both are character types that are somewhat unhinged from any proper place in the world, and who have to grapple with the question of what to do next.

Solar:
Which is actually something I am interested in… where do the Getimians hang out, mostly? Could they live in Heaven? Would they have to hide their nature entirely?

Vance:
I believe Holden’s mentioned a Getimian who works for the Bureau of Fate. Take that as you will.


Dulahan:
Don’t suppose you’re willing to spoil anything about the two unnamed [Exalt] types yet are you? Even if just a general theme as a teaser? Or a name?

Vance:
They are not neighborly.

Holden:
is it really only two?

well okay, one of them are the R__________________s.


Black Flag:
But to get things somewhat back on track, the idea that the Loom of Fate should preclude free will is another symptom of modern people’s tendency to define “free will” in such an absolutist way as to render it meaningless. The ability to make conscious decisions doesn’t liberate one from causality, and however chaotic it may be, causality follows regular patterns that a preternatural force might to be able to predict. That in no way invalidates the decisions of the individuals involved, which are factored into the prediction. In other words, the Loom is a great image that’s a nice callback to ancient ideas but ought not in any way to suggest that the characters in the game don’t make meaningful decisions.

Lea:
The problem we run into here is we have to produce material our audience will accept.

Black Flag:
Are you implying that your audience will only accept the Loom of Fate as a kind of hard determinism that precludes free will of any sort? That was never the impression I got before.

Lea:
No. I don’t think our audience will accept any of the rarified discussion people are having here. I think our audience will entirely reject engaging with any of the trickier implications of free will vs. determinism.

Like, I remember me and Holden and Neall and Neph inventing samsara. That didn’t work.

Lea:
Samsara was invented to answer the question “Okay, if destiny is ultimately malleable to the point of being decided by Heavenly committees subject to office politics and bribery, and if fate can be overturned with sufficient essence use and in fact just boils down to causality in the sense of ‘If you drop a rock, it is the rock’s fate to fall down because that’s what dropped rocks do,’ but also if the Maidens are subject to some immutable predestination that causes them to act all inscrutible and occasionally pronounce things that must happen and cannot be avoided, then where the hell are the Maidens getting those fell pronouncements? Because it sure can’t be destiny and it sure can’t be fate!”

Didn’t work. Scrap all that; dumb idea. That was me attempting to be so sharp I cut myself. Forget it, irrelevant, move on.

Gayo:
Does 3e have a specific, different solution to this, or will it just leave it uncertain?

Lea:
Shrug.


Black Flag:
Speaking of which, O Devs, are least gods of spoons still a thing?

Holden:
They are not.

Anaximander:
If least gods as in “the least god of this blade of grass” are gone, what’s the cut-off? A field? Any field? Some fields?

Vance:
Field guardians are still a type of god that exist.

The cut-off, OOC, is probably “would it be really really dumb for this thing to have a god?”


Kerredai:
A question for Mr. Vance: how did you handle defense stunts for PCs when you were running God-Kings of Lotus? Did you coordinate them in the OOC thread, just come up with them yourself, something else?

Vance:
It was a long time ago, but I think I’d just hit them up via instant message to get their stunt before writing the post that resolved to attack.

Moving over to Skype improved the quality of combat a gorillion percent


Jürgen Hubert:
As a project manager by profession, I am assuming that Heaven’s approach is something like this:

1. The Bureau of Destiny forms an agenda, which is “Creation must survive”.
2. The predictions of the Loom of Fate give a baseline of what will happen if the Bureau of Destiny does not interfere.
3. A thorough analysis by the Bureau of Destiny spots issues in that baseline which may cause problems for Creation if they are not addressed.
4. The Bureau of Destiny creates a committee consisting of senior members of the Bureau which comes up with an action plan for addressing these issues – complete with monthly Milestones, regular reports, and so forth.
5. The members of the committee may or may not have their own agendas when developing said action plan, prioritizing their own pet concerns over the ultimate goal of the plan.
6. Inevitably, those who created the action plan are not the ones who will actually execute it – instead, the work is palmed off to junior members of the Bureau.
7. Said junior members inevitably discover that (a) the original plan is worthless, as it doesn’t address all sorts of issues that might or might not have been apparent at the beginning, or is too inflexible to adapt to a changing situation, and (b) they have been given insufficient time and resources to implement the entire plan anyway.
8. So the junior members concentrate on the parts of the plan they think are the most important (sometimes doing stuff that was never part of the plan in the first place) and do a half-assed job at best on the other stuff, or else ignore it and hope it will go away.
9. They dutifully write their regular reports, claiming great successes despite unforeseen circumstances making following the original plan difficult, and any problems are the fault of some other office anyway.
10. Suddenly, large numbers of Fair Folk/nephwracks/a Second Circle demon appear, and the junior members of the Bureau are suddenly very busy with field work while the senior members go in full-out warfare mode to figure out which office should be blamed.
11. Somehow having survived yet another five year plan, a new committee meets to discuss the plan for the next five years…

Lea:
This matches my understanding of how things worked in previous editions, albeit, ideally, with less emphasis on farce and more emphasis on “That’s how it works because that’s how real political bureaucracy works, and if it sounds too farcial to you, I’ve got some bad news….”

I’m unsure whether Holden and John have changes in mind that for that bit of Heaven’s working in particular.

Lea:
One of the problems one runs into here is “Politics is like sausage — you don’t want to see how it’s made.” Realistic, even somewhat realistic, even just reasonably consistent portrayals of bureaucratic politics, the sort that don’t fall apart into plot holes when you poke them, have to depict something resembling how bureaucratic politics actually work…

…and “How bureaucratic politics actually works” often reads as infuruiatingly farcial to anyone who isn’t familiar with the process.

We could write bureaucratic politics as not working like that, but we’d have to redesign the entire concept of bureaucratic politics from first principles in order to make it hold together conceptually, and the end result would necessarily have to in no way resemble any sort of politics as actually practiced by any real examples we could draw from for inspiration.

Wuse_Major:
My main problem with it in 1e and 2e was that you couldn’t really interact with it in any meaningful way, except for when it tried to screw you over. It made Heaven into a a place you wanted to avoid at all costs so they couldn’t sucker you into a fixed Audit that stuck you in a mountain for 700 years or, even worse, made you the TPS Report Supervisor. I work at a small engineering firm that employs roughly 20 people and we still spend an annoying amount of time doing paperwork. I do not need even that much paperwork simulation in my pretendy funtime games. Not without some sort of concrete benefit to it anyway.

If the game previously had ways to leverage your position to become a political fixer or methods for getting at the massive stores of information that Heaven has or any one of a hundred other cool things you could do with access to Heaven and a privileged position with the Bureaucracy, I think the Sids might have been much more fun for me. But it always felt like it was more about the TPS reports than fun.

This is one of the things I’m looking forwards to about the new edition. Getting to play Sidereals as James Bond, or at least Bob Howard, instead of Dilbert.

Lea:
More attention could definitely be paid to acknowledging that the infuriating elements of politics necessarily exist, while keeping the spotlight firmly on the interesting, engaging bits.


Overshee:
Question for the devs: Would a Liminal Exalt be more interested in opening or closing a Shadowland?

Holden:
Closing, generally.


Prometheus878:
Will you guys be making more books supporting homebrew after the Exigents book? I’m looking forward to seeing the crazy stuff people will do with your guidance to help them.

Personally I’m toying around with the idea of a Star Wars-alike space opera setting inspired by Heaven’s Reach, except more (ironically) “down to earth,” with a more focused intended play experience and entirely unique Exalt types.

Holden:
I am not really sure what else one could need after Exigents, besides maybe a Storyteller book.

Aretii:
Will Exigents contain guidance for building an Essence-based Charmset a la 2E Infernals, or is that a model of Exaltation that you’ve decided just doesn’t work with 3rd Edition?

Holden:
There will, at the very least, be Essence-based Exigents.

Aretii:
Ooh, what is the primary inspiration of the R__________________s?

Holden:
Oh, that’s easy. The primary basis of inspiration were D_______________.

Aretii:
Out of curiosity, is there one of those in the offing?

Holden:
Maybe!


LordofArcana:
A question for the devs: What is the difference between a sorcerous working and a crafter when it comes to helping people? Would it be clear to a savant that an idyllic village had a major artifact making life easier for them as opposed to benefiting from the actions of a sorcerer?

Vance:
There’s not always a clear, dividing line, and there’s potential for IC confusion and ambiguity. The biggest tip-off that something’s an artifact is that, well, there’s an artifact. It’s a physical thing, made of stuff. Usually that’s gonna be a good sign that it’s an artifact, although it’s not always dispositive.

Isator Levie:
I’m hoping that there’s going to be a consistent sense of the powers of Artifacts making sense as something that would come from some kind of tool or construct, as well as the idea of Artifacts as tools or constructs that would produce effects.

There’s a point at which I feel ideas of making just any random object that projects a generic “good vibes” field or whatever makes the whole sense of Artifacts become so nebulous as to render them disengaging.

Hmm, I hope that sentence makes sense…

Vance:
It does!

An Artifact that benefits a community is probably going to take the form of, say, a jade fountain that flows with clean water that is a panacea for common diseases, or a mighty golem that plows the fields, or a larder that is proofed against all rot and vermin. An auratic sort of blessing is more likely going to be the result of a demesne or manse.

Odd_Canuck:
That does get fuzzy though as somethings can happen through both artifacts and projects… If I wanted a sentient stone bust that I could give to a village to act as the immortal mayor for example, well I could craft that as an artifact or I could do it as a sorcerous project I’d think. Well, unless projects and/or artifacts have been radically reworked since the playtest days.

Vance:
Yeah. Of course, 99.99% of folks in Creation probably aren’t going to know the difference between an artifact and a sorcerous working that’s anchored in a physical object, let alone be able to tell the difference.


Simon Mcglynn:
I’m really curious about Infernals lately. Is there anything you can tell us about them that is changing between 2e and 3e? I get that it’s a long way off but I really like the little I know about 3e infernals. Really I just want to know if the moment of exaltation is gonna be more or less the same.

Holden:
That’s an interesting question, since there was so much ambiguity in 2e about what their Exaltation was supposed to be like.


Nabla:
Speaking of Hell, I do not understand Cecelyne. If she has a blank black sky, does it mean travelers can not see anything? If not, where does the light come from? Is the temperature cold like in a normal desert by night? Also, is everything a infinite erg or are there hamadas too?

Isator Levie:
I thought the sky of Cecylene still contained some bleak, dead stars.

Regardless, I would say that she is a world in which the principle of light being required to see does not apply in the same way.

Holden:
The stars of Hell are demons who read something they ought not have learned within the glass libraries of Orabilis and a a result have been cast into the sky by Orabilis, where they burn away to nothing. So the answer to “does Hell have stars?” is “sometimes.”

Cecelyne, like the rest of Hell, is lit by the mad green glow of Ligier.

Doleco:
Does the Sun set one day, and Ligier rise the next during the journey?

Lea:
Night in Hell is when the Ebon Dragon passes between Ligier and the Demon City.


Leliel:
I like the Fallen Races. However, due to 2e’s pathological fear of shaking the status quo, one of the two kind of got a bum deal.

My point is, what’s going on with Mountain Folk?

Holden:
Mountain Folk are still a loooong way off


Daerim:
Hmm… Ligier, the First and Forsaken Lion and Prince Balor are all placed under a powerful, unbreakable curse that prevents any of them from accomplishing anything (not pertaining to conflict between the three parties) while the other two live (very liberal definition of “live”).

Who is left standing after the dust settles?

Vance:
I feel like this runs into the whole Batman v. Superman preptime thing. Does the First and Forsaken Lion get to raise up an army of war ghosts led by his Deathknights? Does Ligier have time to chill in his workshop and craft the dual-wielded daiklaves Ghostfucker and Rakshafucker? Does Balor lead numberless millions of raksha, monstrous prodigies, and conceptual viruses into play? There’s too many variables!


DrLoveMonkeyMD:
It’s also worth noting that ex3 is OPs longest book yet as well. So if any book is going to smash the proof passes record this one probably will.

Matt.Ceb:
No, it’s not.

Mage20 is confirmed, by an OP employee, to be larger than Ex3.

Holden:
M20 is bigger, but not by a lot.


Lea:
Not speaking as a developer: I would be really surprised if Havesh is ever officially disavowed in a published product, as some people want; I would sort of be equally surprised if he’s ever officially recognized. And equal to both, I would be surprised if we ever work to give any sort of impression that people like him are ineligible for Exaltation.

Holden:
Harmonious Jade makes for a pretty good example of a villain uplifted by the Unconquered Sun because he saw some potential in her to be more than the killing tool of a demon cult. Havesh, by contrast, is a villain who gained the power of Solar Exaltation and promptly used it to be an even bigger villain. I think that in 2015, we don’t need to put a Night Caste whose entire modus operadi can be summed up by “hey, now that I’m a demigod I can murder and rape anybody I want” into the books in order to inject moral ambiguity into the game.

Which is not to say that Solars can’t turn out to be villains– they most assuredly can– but when they put on a RENEGADE 4 LIFE shirt the moment their caste mark lights up for the first time, it’s hard to draw any other conclusion than a) the Unconquered Sun is a moron or b) Exaltation is a complete crapshoot. Neither of those are impressions we want to give.

This also isn’t an edition where we feel the need to trot out every single character or place or thing that was ever mentioned in the game’s publication history just because it was once a thing. I suspect Havesh will remain Sir Not Appearing in This Edition, because the effort needed to make him less of a gruesome cartoon would probably be more productively spent just inventing new characters, and he’s not actually important in any major sense, unlike say Ma-Ha-Suchi, Mnemon, or Raksi.

Holden:
Each of the old Caste Books, by design, has one really scary Solar in there that is supposed to make the reader go “oh, this kind of shit is what Kejak built the Immaculate propaganda of the Forsaken, the Unclean, the Deceivers, etc, around.” That is to say, Havesh was not supposed to be a rogue whose adventures we cheer on even though we know he’s a greedy selfish pissant like Jayne Cobb (and frankly the most likable thing about Jayne was that he was associated with characters the viewer genuinely did like, and had good banter with them). Havesh, like Lyta, is supposed to be pretty horrifying.

Lea:
For those who want the full set, it’s Lyta (textbook ultraviolent genocidal Forsaken), Wind (who’s not awful but he’s a super-preacher dedicated to dismantling the Immaculate Order, so pretty much the Immaculate idea of the Blasphemous), Fehim (because, you know, demon pacting, ergo Unclean), Havesh the Vanisher (pretty Wretched!) and the Mirror Flag rounds it out representing the Deceivers.

I don’t know whether it was intentional or accidental or whatever the way they each represent the Immaculate stereotype of their respective Castes in such different ways, but Havesh does seem to be the worst of them in terms of the reaction he inspires.

Holden:
I think it’s probably more than Havesh brings nothing particularly special or desirable to the table to make him seem complex or interesting, rather than simply revolting.

Isator Levie
:
Okay, Holden, the person I’m asking and the co-developer, has said “Havesh being Exalted makes the Sun look stupid or terrible”, as a criticism. I am asking what makes a person like Lyta appropriate as one of the Solar Exalted while somebody like Havesh apparently undermines the concept.

While I’m at it, I also feel like asking what exactly the difference is between Solars who make the desirable kinds of villains and Havesh “starting out as a villain* and using his new power to become an even worse one”.

What are the standards for an “appropriate” Solar villain that the setting could depict for the sake of giving players ideas?

* Which I find to be a somewhat… troubling read on the idea of an impoverished and desperate young person resorting to crime, but whatever.

Holden:
To the modern reader, Lyta is a psychopath. To plenty of pre-modern (and some few non-Western modern) cultures, Lyta would look plenty heroic– a lot of people in Creation straight up do not have a problem with sacrificing your enemies to curry the favor of the gods. You could tell them, “yes, but Lyta ties Dragon-Blooded to huge bronze mirrors and aims them at the sun, then chants prayers to the deity that empowered her while her captives roast to death,” and as long as Lyta was aligned with the listener’s interest, they would remain politely quiet. They’d still be waiting for you to get to the point. Lyta is a violent extremist, but she is out there waging her own war against the hegemony that murdered her kind and stole the thrones they once occupied, and that fits plenty of definitions of “heroic” in the Age of Sorrows. Maybe the Unconquered Sun felt that the rolls of his Chosen could use a Rorschach or two?

On the other hand, first, Havesh is a villain by pretty much anyone’s rubric. He’s a contract murderer who lives high on the hog and rapes his victims’ wives, then goes on to take on the next contract to murder whoever the hell for whoever’s willing to pay. Second, he’s using his divine might to satisfy the petty feuds and vendettas of the scumbags the Night Caste exist to scourge and regulate. The Zenith equivalent to Havesh would be a prostitute who, once Exalted, decides they can use their newfound superhuman allure to raise their prices and stop worrying about VD, and then calls it a day. He’s not only a blackguard with no real redeeming value, he’s also a waste of an Exaltation.


sakii:
How man spell and workings would the regular mortal sorcerer have??
Whats to much and what is to little?

Vance:
The system does not place any mechanical restrictions on mortal sorcerers with regards to this, although obviously the logic of the setting does.

If you want to play a mortal sorcerer, you’ll be able to begin with four spells out of chargen, albeit at the cost of basically all of your BP. I don’t think that’s representative of what a “novice” sorcerer in Creation would know.

sakii:
Ah, no, im not talking about my characters.
Im walking around and suddently a wild sorcerer lair appears how many spells and workings would that sorcerer have.(I know the storyteller decides but 1 to all terrestrial and 0 to 1000 golems is a big range that im trying to narow)

Vance:
In terms of the workings, the best way to gauge how many it’s sensible for them to have that are applicable to the current situtation is to get a gage of how much time or relevant advantages that sorcerer would have put into creating them. An apprentice geomancer might have successfully animated a stone golem, but having a thousandfold legion of them is just a bit beyond his reach. Conversely, the dread lair of Koschei the Deathless, who hid his life in an egg and has been kicking around since the First Age is going to have basically as many damn workings as the ST says it has.

Holden:
There’s basically no such thing as an “average” sorcerer, or a standard advancement arc for them. They tend to be very unique individuals.


Wuse_Major:
…Also, can you use a Working to do that “remove your heart to become unaging and unkillable” thing or equivalent?

Vance:
You can try!


molikai:
I would comment on ‘The Unconquered sun choosing [who to Exalt]..’
He doesn’t do the choosing. by Design, because if he did the choosing, he could be ordered ‘don’t choose’ by the primordials.

Holden:
That’s a post-hoc justification for certain 2e Infernal Charms.


Matt.Ceb:
The last multiple weeks of “Layout pass #x” semi-updates weren’t really that riveting, to be frank.

Holden:
The highly detailed version, wherein Rich asks Maria to move the text of a sidebar just a smidge to the left so it isn’t so close to the border, and to push this header over to the top of the next column of text so it isn’t sitting there down at the bottom of a column all on its lonesome, and I ask for one sentence to be added to the Sail rules, wouldn’t be much more riveting. We’re at the stage of the “patch notes” where it’s just a wall of “Fixed a bug preventing the correct sound from loading when players summoned their mount in Ironforge” type shit, i.e. unexciting but you’d be really fucking unhappy if we didn’t do it properly.

David J Prokopetz:
The layout artist may come to you and say: “Hey, this section is exactly one line too long to fit neatly on a single page; can you trim it by 8-10 words?”

Holden:
This exact thing has happened several times, most recently with the Lunar portion of the first chapter in the last pass.

Wuse_Major:
…..Could you post the cut line? I get that it probably won’t make any sense and you probably just tightened up the passage anyway so there isn’t an actual “cut line” but, if there is, it would be kind of a fun mini-spoiler.

Holden:
I rarely ever cut, opting instead to re-write for less word use, where at all possible.

David J Prokopetz:
Yeah, in my experience it’s less “cut entire lines” and more “drop a superfluous adjective here, reword a non-critical dependent clause there, and hope that it actually makes a difference with respect to where the line breaks fall once the text has been justified”.

EDIT: Well, to be honest, the first step is usually “comb the entire column hunting for overlooked orphans to kill”.

EDIT2: In the interest of clarity, in layout jargon, an “orphan” is a situation where the last line of a paragraph consisting of three or more lines has only one word on it. They’re considered a minor faux pas in terms of reading flow, so ideally you don’t want to have any – but when it comes to “we need to trim exactly one line” situations, you kind of catch yourself hoping you missed one, because then you can save an entire line by trimming one word.

Holden:
Yep.

Good professional layout: not actually something that just any random idiot could do in a week with no training. Who knew?


Molez:
Is the plan to have a google docs version of the DB book ready for review when it comes to getting that Kickstarted? I feel like that will allay a lot of concerns that people will bring up – and seems to have been positively received on other game lines?

It seems like if we are going to get it published this year, there is probably enough already done for that to be viable?

Holden:
I will never, ever dump a raw-text version of an Exalted book, as I think it seriously harms a Kickstarter’s sales from day 4 onward and produces a shallow pledge tail at the end. That’s bad for a hype-driven fundraising mechanism. I also think raw-text releases for crunch-heavy games tend to feel discouraging and off-putting, and that good layout and art direction are really important for making something as crunchy as Exalted feel approachable and engaging, rather than intimidating.

The plan is to have the DB book well into layout before starting its Kickstarter, though, so we can do lots of “finished” excerpts complete with art and everything, and then release the PDF close on the heels of the KS finishing– the day after it closes, if I had my druthers, although that’s rarely the sort of thing you can guarantee in a hobby where just one artist flaking out can fuck the schedule by two months or more.

Molez:
I guess what I’m asking is – will you be putting out more previews for the DB book than you might for later ones, as a very definitive way of saying – look, this is 99% done, there is lots to get excited about etc.

Holden:
The plan has always been to go pretty heavy on post-corebook previews.


Molez:
Given the large number of posts talking about the leak, which aspect of the system are you most looking forward to people seeing once the leak comes out?

Holden:
AP reports in general. Character construction. As it stands, I can separate the voice of experience from the voice of “I read the thing and I think I know how this will play” with almost perfect accuracy.


Sigilistic:
So John Mørke has been going and previewing martial art styles, giving brief descriptions. He’s mentioned the oldies and goodies, but holy cow, there’s a lot of new ones.

John (as quoted by Sigilistic):
Snake Style, a “soft,” offensive style ideal for assassinations. Signature technique: striking through armor to deliver a fatal blow.

Sky Tamer Style, a “hard” defensive style that requires a bullwhip. Signature jutsu creates a vortex around you, your whip cracking and striking hard enough to shatter bones.

Dark Messiah, a “hard” offensive style using your bare hands to shatter bones and rip through tendons. Signature jutsu is destroying someone’s senses and shattering them with a hundred fists moving through the shroud.

Mantis Style, a style that is both “soft” and “hard”, defensive but primarily offensive. The Mantis signature technique is replying to any attack with a lethal counter attack, hands striking like steel talons.

Black Claw, a style with primarily “soft” defensive technique, and the dreaded jutsu for which it was named, wreathing your hand with caustic black Essence as you rip your target’s heart from his chest.

Prismatic Arrangement of Creation Style, a style that is “hard” and “soft,” defensive and offensive, and requires total mental and physical control of one’s Essence. The legendary jutsu of this style allows you to assume the stances of other supernatural martial arts that you have mastered simultaneously.

Stone Archon Style, a “hard” defensive style that uses soul-twisting koans to defeat an opponent’s mind and spirit, while increasing your physical strength and durability. The signature technique of Stone Archon allows you to enunciate and solve a cosmic riddle that transforms you into a mountainous archon of stone.

Ebon Shadow, a “hard” offensive style that uses stealth and subterfuge in lieu of a defense. Sowing chaos with your opponent’s senses, you strike horrifying blows with sai or fighting chains. Your signature jutsu is a defensive shadow aura that makes you incredibly difficult to strike.

Righteous Devil Style, an unclassified offensive style that utilizes a firewand and your Essence to control the streams of flame that leap from your weapon. The signature technique buffets your foe with the fires of judgment, forcing them to repent or burn.

Heaven’s Ladder Style, a “hard” offensive style that is legendary for using a ladder as a weapon, Heaven’s Ladder is the signature style of the Imperial City Fire Brigade. Its signature techniques involve scaling and leaping from the ladder, using it as a fulcrum, a catapult, a platform, and a clinching tool.

Monkey Style, a “soft” offensive style that emphasizes conservation of force to turn a larger opponent’s strength and momentum against them. The signature jutsu involves punching someone in the balls really hard.

Red Locust Swarm Style, an unclassified offensive style that involves the carrying of and mixing of volatile reagents with one’s own Essence, to hurl caustic bombs and acid bolts. A style made for maiming and killing groups of tightly-packed enemies.

White Reaper, a “hard” offensive style using a war scythe. This battlefield martial art focuses on wide arcing strikes and defense as offense, to slaughter groups of foes in tight formations. Its signature technique is the “Bleeding Crescent Strike” that expends arcs of burning momentum to deliver a critical strike with maximum force.

Ivory Pestle Style, a “soft” defensive style that uses a battle staff and scenery to create a nigh impassable defensive chokepoint. The signature jutsu of Ivory Pestle allows you to hold a closed position like a hallway, rampart, or bridge, launching a shattering counterattack on anyone who tries to move through you or past you.

Single Point Shining Into the Void, the legendary lost style made famous by the loculicidal duelists of the Solar Deliberative. Single Point uses a single-sided reaper daiklave; its characterization as a style that utilizes sheathe-drawing attacks is misleading. It is a “hard” offensive style that emphasizes understanding your blade’s natural rhythm and matching it to unleash strikes of unparalleled speed and fury.

Terrible Ascent Driven Beast, a style made famous by the bureaucrats of the Thousand Scales. Taking a sliver of the Wyld into your heart, you hold the raw chaos within the binding chains of tax codes, border surveys, archaic trade regulations, and hundreds of years of census survey and almanac knowledge. Subsequently, you are able to bind someone’s Essence and cripple their nervous system with citations and recitations of weaponized bureaucratic lore and bludgeoning with really heavy tax ledgers. The signature technique of Terrible Ascent Driven Beast is transformation into the Efficacious Wind-Borne Auditor, a phantasmal effigy of yourself that moves like the wind, can run on air and pass through walls.

Border of Kaleidoscopic Logic, a Sidereal martial art classified as “soft” and offensive, utilizing Essence understanding and reality-encoding mantras to merge with your opponent’s existence and alter it. The signature jutsu of this style forces your opponent to live his entire life backwards to the moment of birth. Outwardly, this takes only a few seconds. Internally, they experience this in real time.

Silver-Voiced Nightingale Style, a “hard” and “soft” offensive style that utilizes musical (sonic) weaponry, primarily your voice, to debilitate a target and end a fight before it starts. Used as a “hard” style, the voice can be shaped to blow a heavy oak door to flinders, put cracks in a stone wall, and bring down rotten or loose tonnage on the heads of your enemies. Used “soft” it can paralyze, stun, and disorient. The signature technique allows you to strike a foe with your voice like a solid fist.

Thunder on the Final Precipice Style, a “hard” offensive style that utilizes a familiar hunting hawk or other prey bird and fighting claws as a means of attack. The practitioner can cast his soul and his very senses into the prey bird, infusing its talons and beak with steel-hard Essence and making it strike like a heavy ballista, while borrowing its speed, accuracy, and incredible eyesight for launching his own attacks. The signature technique, “Ghosts on the Empty Steppe” allows you to perfectly counter one of your opponent’s Charms for the rest of the scene.

Graceful Hummingbird Style, a “soft” defensive style that uses a fencing blade to parry, stun, and disable attackers, emphasizing deterrence and minimizing wasted energy. Its signature technique involves striking someone the moment they attack, completely shattering their momentum before the fight begins.

Steel Devil Style, a “hard” offensive style that utilizes a blade wielded in each hand, Steel Devil emphasizes striking inside the line of your opponent’s attack with one blade while attacking their body with the other. Its signature technique unleashes a flurry of repeating strikes that continues to deliver sequential attacks with each successful blow.

Dreaming Pearl Courtesan, a fighting style popularized by courtiers and consorts in southern polities, where a member of the royal seraglio is just as likely to be a spy, assassin, and bodyguard. Dreaming Pearl is both a “soft” and “hard” style with offensive and defensive emphasis. It uses an eclectic blend of courtesan’s tools, including folding war fans, razor-lined sleeves and skirt-hems, sinuous dancing motions, and even one’s own hair to attack. The signature jutsu of Dreaming Pearl Courtesan transforms you into a massive flying carp dragon.

Tiger Style, one of the most famous and deadly of all fighting styles, Tiger is a “hard” offensive style that uses baghnakhs or fingers hardened to the strength of iron, to claw through joints, tendons and sinnew, and stiff punches and kicks to shatter bones. Tiger Style’s signature technique is being able to fight on the ground equally well as standing up; once an opponent’s leg is broken or back is injured, that is often where the fight goes.

Violet Bier of Sorrows, a style known to few. It is named after the symbology of the department of Saturn (the Maiden of Endings) in the Bureau of Destiny, and her constellations dwell within its astrological schema. Violet Bier of Sorrows is “soft” when it is on the offense, deflecting, evading, and countering with telling, crippling strikes; it is “hard” on the defense, disrupting a foe’s attacks with blows to their joints or torso by striking within the arc of their strikes. The typical practice involves a short slashing blade for offensive strikes, and a heavy cudgel for defensive strikes. The signature technique of this style is the “Metal Storm.” Sensing a crippled foe’s moment of defeat, you make it real, launching a volley of strikes impossibly from every direction.

Obsidian Chains of Torment, a style associated with executioners and gladiators hailing from the shadowlands. It is a “hard” and “soft” offensive style that exclusively uses a chain scythe with a huge sickle blade at one end and a heavy weight at the other. The signature technique of Obsidian Chains of Torment whirls the blade of the chain scythe with terrifying speed while advancing, forcing the attacker to flee–or if they rush their attack, to be surprised by a clashing blow from the weighted end of the weapon before being sliced in half as the sickle makes its next pass.

Hungry Ghost Style, a “soft” offensive style that uses baghnakhs but is wholly unlike Tiger Style in that it emphasizes passing around an opponent’s attacks at close range, dancing into their periphery and flowing around the arcs of their motion while slashing at vital areas with your claws and trying to drive them off balance. The signature technique of Hungry Tiger draws the life force from a heavily bleeding opponent to fuel the speed and power of your killing blow.

Crane Style, a “soft” defensive style common to vartabeds of the Near East. Crane uses war fans and graceful flowing movements to confuse an opponent and draw them into committing into extended attacks only to find that you have dodged at the last moment and delivered a bruising counter. A Crane stylist wears down her opponent with her defensive, punishing stances. Her signature jutsu is a counterattack that infuses her counterattack with incredible force when she retaliates against someone who has attacked her previously.

Charcoal March of Spiders, a “hard” offensive Sidereal martial art that involves honing your Essence into fine steel hard threads that can easily cut through stones. Casting these deadly wires out like a web, you make it nearly impossible to approach or evade as the fight progresses. Once you have crippled and trapped your opponent, you can strike them with the signature attack, Water Spider Bite, which allows you to rip out your target’s soul and devour it.
I am very much looking forward to a MA book.

Fire Dragon style, a “hard” offensive style that primarily uses your natural weapons (fists, feet, knees, elbows) to intercept an attacker’s blows with strikes of your own. It is a fast, aggressive style, whose signature jutsu involves igniting the Essence that lives at the end of your fist in devouring fireballs that explode on contact with your hapless foe’s torso.

Water Dragon Style, a “soft” defensive style that uses the Essence of water to accentuate your movements, allowing you to flow gracefully and fluidly away from and around your enemy’s strikes, while coming back at them with twice the force. Its signature jutsu involves shaping channels of water around you into punishing extensions of your normal attacks, extending your range with battering bolts of fast-moving liquid.

Earth Dragon Style, a “hard” defensive style that involves hardening your body by taking dozens to hundreds of strikes a day in training, and learning to hone your physical Essence in places of Earth aspected power, such as mountains, quarries, and so on. The signature jutsu of Earth Dragon allows you to channel the earth around you into your attacks, hammering your foe with walls of solid rock.

Wood Dragon Style, a “hard” defensive and offensive style that involves moving into your target’s periphery and forcing them to make unsteady attacks, attacking them when they are off-center, and holding your ground like an unmoving tree when they try to attack you. The signature jutsu of this style allows you to merge your Essence with the plant life around you, calling snarling roots from the ground to bind and slash at your opponents.

Air Dragon Style, a “soft” offensive style that uses winding, twisting motions and speed to turn your opponent’s own strength against him, stealing his momentum and putting him off balance for your own fast, punishing strikes. The signature Jutsu of Air Dragon allows you to command gusts of wind to accompany your strikes, throwing your opponents off balance with gale force upon landing an attack.

Quicksilver Limbus Style, a “hard” offensive assassination style that involves honing the Essence around your hands until they can slice through wood and softer stones (not to mention flesh, muscle, sinew, etc). Your lightning fast slash attacks eventually engender an ability to hurl your Essence like a dart, or to throw precise and incredibly fast throwing knives. The signature jutsu involves harnessing your Essence into a caustic silver streak that you hurl into a foe’s eyes, temporarily blinding them and making it impossible to dodge your flurry of thrown blades.

Savage Witch Style, a style used by those hardened, wizened old ancients who live on the Steppes on the edge of the Wyld in the Near North. It is an unclassified offensive style that uses the growth of a long, carnivorous beard as its main method of attack. Users of Savage Witch are known to have bestial claws on their hands and feet, run on air, and release swarms of flesh-eating one-eyed bats from their beards. The horrifying signature technique of Savage Witch is when the beard splits open into a giant, many-toothed maw and slams shut like an iron maiden around an opponent, devouring them completely.

Dread Cyclone Style, a “hard” offensive style that attacks almost exclusively with kicks. Dread Cyclone is heavily practiced on the southern and eastern shores of the Realm, where practitioners are said to be able to land kicks at any time, from any angle. The kick techniques allow even smaller framed women to use their momentum and body weight to land crushing leg attacks on much larger foes. The signature jutsu is the eponymous Dread Cyclone, in which you stun a foe with a shattering kick and then leap into the air, twisting leg over leg with a flurry of alternating kicks with the force of a compact hurricane.

Blood Riot Style, a “hard” offensive style used to train assassins in the lawless southern city states along the Diamond Road. The training in this style is brutal, infusing the killing techniques and methods deep into your mind and soul, burying it within your blood. Blood Riot uses wrist razors to slash and score opponents. It is an aggressive, fast style, but its signature jutsu involves releasing a vial of your own volatile blood, alchemically treated to release a scent that unlocks the full extent of your buried training. This transforms you physically, making your skin harder, your teeth sharper. Your fingernails become steel hard claws, and you move like the wind and fight blindly, slashing at a target that has been hit with your Riot Blood until they are dead or you are.

Dancing Golem Style, a style used in the jungle riverlands of the Southeast, named after the great war god statues of Zek’e. Dancing Golem is a brutal “hard” offensive style that uses the knees and elbows primarily to break an opponent’s arms and legs as they try to attack. It can also deliver shattering punches and kicks, though these are seen as tools to stun or finish an opponent. The signature jutsu is an Essence-infused flying knee that can topple a war god.

Serpent’s Tongue Style, used primarily by bandit clans in the highlands of the Blessed Isle, is an unclassified offensive style that uses a rope dart to fight at multiple ranges. Up close, the rope is used to snare limbs in order to throw or batter opponents while they are off balance. The rope dart is typically laced with a poison distilled from the practitioner’s blood and Essence by an alchemist who knows the trick of making it into a toxin that painfully inhibits Dragon-Blooded Essence. Stylists also put this poison on the spiked gauntlets they wear, and generally use a loose assembly of armor to protect their shoulders, knees, elbows, heel, and hands, coinciding with the body weapons they tend to strike with.

Cloud-Binding Focus Style, a style practiced traditionally by members of the Imperial Legion, this is an offensive style that is both hard and soft, and can be practiced with heavy armor. It complements styles such as Wind-Cutting Blade and the much more rare Single Point Shining Into the Void, but itself is an unarmed style emphasizing capturing your opponent’s limbs and hurling them to the ground. Tossing an armored opponent to the ground can leave them mortally injured before a weapon is even drawn to dispatch them. In addition to meeting and channeling an opponent’s force into brutal throws, Cloud-Binding Focus has a series of straight-line striking techniques for disrupting a number of attacks and breaking out of grapples. The signature jutsu is a perfect counter that absorbs the power of an incoming attack, increasing your strength tenfold as you bodily lift and slam your opponent into the ground.

Cobra Style, a style that derives much of its technique from Snake style and Crane style, it is a “hard” offensive style, with some defensive techniques that mirror Crane. Cobra stylists use short blades with a reverse grip, pointed down like the fangs of a viper. Their signature jutsu is the False Crane Posture, a neutral defensive stance that conceals their true movement, allowing them to strike an opponent’s vital centers with a lightning-fast poisoned Essence strike.

Throne Shadow Style, a traditionally unarmed “soft” defensive style that allows you to channel your martial talents through a number of subordinates, allowing them to move and strike in perfect synchronization as your weapons. This is its signature technique.

Citrine Poxes of Contagion, a Sidereal martial art that fashions your Essence into a virulent strain of unforeseen maladies that wreak havoc with your foe’s physical and spiritual immunities. The signature jutsu is a horrific withering strike that does damage to the soul and flesh and scars the opponent into their next lifetime.

Surging Fist Style, a style that is falling out of use on the Blessed Isle due to the rise of Cloud-Binding Focus. Surging Fist is a “hard” offensive style that teaches the user to harness his Essence in one place, allowing him to flash across short distances at the speed of light and deliver critical blows. Dragon-Blooded mostly consider this a showy circus style, unfit for the battlefield, though a few Exalted practitioners are working to revive it as a legitimate battlefield style. In any case, it uses no weapons or armor and relies on crushing kicks, straight punches, and uses very few roundhouse or spinning motions to generate momentum, forcing stylists to hone their Essence and rely on it for greater attack force. The signature technique of Surging Fist is opening the opponent with a flashing stunning strike that empowers the stylist to make an additional crushing attack instantly.

Wind-Cutting Blade, a “hard” offensive style famous in the Realm. It relies on use of the reaper daiklave, and features many telltale techniques that involve sheathing and drawing the blade at supersonic speeds. Wind-Cutting Blade is considered to be one of the most dangerous and impressive martial arts in the Realm. Few know that it is a somewhat weaker derivative of Single Point Shining Into the Void, a style that is almost unknown in RY 768. The signature jutsu of the Wind-Cutting Blade is to flash past an opponent, delivering a strike before they can react, and sheathing your blade to unleash the killing force of the attack upon their body a moment later.

Holden:
he’s assigning people MA styles upon request on Facebook, and ran out of published canon styles a while back lol

Holden:
This is someone fucking about to amuse himself on his personal Facebook feed, not a preview of upcoming material or a promotional thing. So…

Vance:
I am solidly convinced that Heaven’s Ladder is bad ass, although I think the direction I took it towards the capstone is misguided in hindsight.


Anu:
Which Martial Arts styles would you recommend for a Sorcerer?

Holden:
Tiger style + Wood Dragon’s Claw is a fearsome thing

Wuse_Major:
Hey Holden, which spells are included in the Core?

Holden:
Well, Wood Dragon’s Claw is there.

digitalronin:
Is Incomparable Body Arsenal there as well?

Holden:
It is definitely my view that there ain’t no party like an Incomparable Body Arsenal party.


Wuse_Major:
The other thing to remember about Exalted is that people didn’t quite appreciate the level of design needed to make Exalted’s system work properly for what they wanted it to do. It’s like trying to build a CCG that plays like Duel Monsters does on the Yu-Gi-Oh cartoons, instead of in real life*, layered on top of a fighting game, a wargame, a dating sim, minecraft, and a couple of other things. The system either needed to be pared back and made explicitly “oh, just give it your best guess” like Mage, or it actually needs this sort of complex iterative design where people can actually try stuff, break it, try other stuff, break that, until they get it right.

Given the number of different types of situations Exalted is ostensibly supposed to be able to handle, I’d say that, in theory, it probably has to be the most inherently complicated generic system on the market. I mean, to properly allow all of the five Solar Castes to really shine at what they do and keep the whole CCG thing, you have to build a system that can handle pretty much anything and then mix in a CCG on top of it. None of the other generic systems I’m aware of do that (I’ll grant that you could do it in GURPS and their magic system already kinda does it, but the magic system isn’t as extensive as the Charms of the Exalted need to be, given the setting.)

To do Exalted right, you either need to rework the whole charm tree thing and do something simpler and more controllable (I could see Exalted working well with a good core system that lets you do everything from Archery to War pretty well, and the Exalted getting inherent dice adders and other bonuses, possibly with Vampire style power cascades) or, well, it’s gonna take awhile.

*In the cartoons, everyone gets the exact cards they need to play these awesome combos when they really need to. If you tried to pull off some of those combos in real life, you’d get hammered to death waiting for that one card you need to pull this off. Which is kinda why I don’t really play Magic anymore.

Holden:
Yes. Our objectives included “everything the system does, it does well,” and “everything it does can support robust Charm interaction,” because we didn’t want another edition where the No Moon has an anemic Charm set because thinky-stuff is barely supported, or social stuff is barely supported, or whatever. So after trying to design the best cinematic combat system ever made and the best social engine ever made (whether we succeeded, we will leave up to the player’s judgment, but it’s what we were gunning for), we then had to design fun naval combat, tactical warfare, medicine and disease and poisons, crime and investigation, crack the RPG Holy Grail of non-shitty grappling, a kung-fu subsystem, sorcery, a sorcerous working subsystem that lets you do whatever you can imagine while still remaining granular and balanced, a new equipment subsystem, a magic item subsystem, and oh yeah, design the first set of crafting rules in the hobby’s history that don’t either totally sideline you or just amount to “input resource, receive thing.” And then lock Charms onto all that stuff. And then figure out how to streamline all of it so that it doesn’t kill Storytellers. While future-proofing against the 10+ corebook-complexity-level supplements we know are going to lock onto the top of all this stuff later on.

It turns out that takes a bit longer than the six months that were originally budgeted to get the project out the door, setting aside multiple life-threatening health issues and whatnot.

Solar:
I don’t think anyone has questioned the amount of work that’s gone into the project at any point.

Holden:
“I could put something together to take care of that in a weekend” has been presented to me as the commentary on things we wrestled with for 3-4 months or more, many times.

Dulahan:
I feel like the difference with Exalted, and why we have so many… angry opinions (to put it mildly) is how much closer the game sounded when we backed it, combined with just how much money people put into it.

I mean seriously, I put in like $120 and when I saw some data somewhere, I was below the MEDIAN pledge! A lot of people dumped a lot of money into this kickstarter – and to be frank, were I not unemployed at the time of the KS, I’d probably have dumped more in. Which compared to even some infamous Kickstarters that have been going longer since the pledge does make a big difference.

Money brings out the worst in people, and the more involved, the angrier they might feel.

Holden:
Imagine for a moment a world wherein RPG creators were actually paid, let’s say, the minimum wage of the state of Utah ($7 per full hour) for their labor, and only counting entire hours spent actively working on the project. I can reasonably expect that due to the fact that I do not live in that world, this project will put me in the hole– not generating earnings, but rather personal revenue loss– to the tune of $70,000. That’s, again, hypothesizing a world wherein what I do is no more valuable than asking if you want fries with that. In the world I live in, it’s a lot closer to making sweatshop Nikes in Uganda.

So while I am sympathetic to the outlook of “I spent my money, I wantz my book!” please keep in mind that the more time we spend ensuring this is a quality product, the more we– I, personally– lose on the thing, whereas you are presently going to get your book for what you paid for it, even though the production and shipping prices have gone up during the production cycle. And the book will be awesome.


Colin Fredericks:
How can I help?

Holden:
Run a game for your friends when the corebook drops.

Monkipi:
I’m considering trying to record my preludes and maybe first session with some high quality audio equipment when the book drops. Would spreading that kind of content be kosher or encouraged?

Holden:
Encouraged!


Anu:
Here’s another question: Can I barter with Madame Marthesine for Sorcerous initiation?
Follow-up question: If the answer is yes, what would that kind of Sorcery look like?

Holden:
Sounds cool to me. I would suspect she’d give you someone else’s power that they bartered away to her long ago! What might a person be able to offer her for such a mighty boon, though?


Aretii:
Probably been answered already, but how many Solar Charms (not counting MA/evocations) are there in the Ex3 Core? How does that number compare to Ex2?

Holden:
About three times as many as in EX2.


El_phantasmo:
Dragon Kings – Are there still only going to be the 4 species (Raptok, Mosok, Anklok and Pterok) or could there be a 5th type? I know the Pterok were the Northern ones, but any normal reptilian would suffer in the cold climes and always thought a more stocky type would suit better? Even a non-dino type or hybrid with the wooly mammoths/rhinos?

Holden:
Don’t really have any plans at the moment to introduce the oft fan-requested Brontok or to mess with the current 4. I should also note that nearly 0 thought has gone into the DKs at this point, they’re something that won’t get addressed for several years.


HoratioAtTheBridge:
Aren’t mospids basically archaeopteryxes?

Lea:
It’s raitons that are archeopterixes, being roughly raven-sized and occupying a roughly equivalent position in Creation’s common mythology as ravens do on Earth. Mospids are the same sort of “toothed bird”/”feathered dinosaur” animal, but are larger and more useful for falconry-type hunting and being combat-capable familiars. I don’t recall whether they correspond to any particular real fossil animal, but given the real gaps in the fossil record and the real morphological variance within any given animal type in real Earth history, it is almost certain that “Someing like an an archeopterix, but bigger and higher on the food chain” has been a real animal at some point.

taleswapper:
Ahhh, I’ve always been fond of Quetzalcoatlus. There’s a marvelous life-sized replica skeleton hanging from the ceiling at a museum in Dallas. The room it’s in is bi-level, so you can see it from the ground or go upstairs to confront the thing at eye-level. It’s really quite impressive. Though I can understand the desire for something more like the mythical figure.

Lea:
Quetzalcoatlus northropi is goddamned terrifying.

HoratioAtTheBridge:
How does something that big fly???

Lea:
“Powerful wing muscles,” basically.

Pterosaurs have an advantage over birds in that when birds launch themselves into the air, they do it with their hind legs, but when they fly, they fly with their wings. This means the amount of power they can put into liftoff is limited by the muscles of their hind legs, but more muscled hind legs increase their weight without adding to the lifting power of their wings. Pterosaurs ain’t havin’ any of that shit. They push off with their arms, and fly with their arms.

The other thing to keep in mind about the largest azhdarchids is that we’re pretty sure their hunting method is, first they fly around looking for prey, and then when they find it, they land near it and charge it and attack it with the big pointy beak. So imagine that thing loping at you along the ground with its giant weird skinny-ass “animated skeleton” gait, aiming to spear you.

El_phantasmo:
Which is basically brown trousers time.

Worse – they might have been pack\flock hunters?

Even more horrific? If that thing screeches\screams whilst loping its way towards you.

Meep!

Lea:
As Holden has said, Phorusrhacidae may have been the terror bird, but Quetzalcoatlus northropi is the pants-shitting terror bird.

Blaque:
If I remember right the ecological niche these things had was not much unlike that of a crane or a heron. Just you know, instead of frogs or fish it was dinosaurs and other archosaurs as large as humans.

Lea:
I distinctly remember reading that they were thought to be skim-feeders for a while, but recent evidence suggests they wouldn’t be able to fly that close to the water without getting pulled into it when they scoop with their beaks. So they were land predators that ran down their prey, using their flight to cover large distances, spot prey from far away, and quickly approach to charge position.

(Also, I’m pretty sure one of those things running at you would look bigger than a T-rex.)

Prometheus878:
Hm. Well, I hope that Tyrant Lizards are twice as big as regular T-rex in this edition, because quite frankly I don’t feel comfortable with T-rex getting upstaged by a bunch of big birds. (really big, terrifying birds, but still. It’s T-rex, man.)

Lea:
Oh, the T-rex is still bigger by mass. I’m sure it’d win in a fight against a Q-north (ugh, sorry). Just, you know, if you want to think about “Just how scary is a big azhdarchid?” keep in mind how big it looks when it’s rushing you.


Notsteve:
Does Creation have winged snakes?

Isator Levie:
Ixcoatli has the image of winged snakes as its emblem.

Given that they’re a society built on a union between snake- and raitonfolk, I hope this means that the symbol is adopted for the image of unity rather than because it’s an actual thing.

Icarus1138:
Given that this is Exalted, I’d hope that the political symbol was chosen based on the prophecy of the great future king that will be the first successful offspring of Serpent and Raiton. That child’s birth and Exaltation as an Air Aspect should set up a good story or two. Make him/her an albino serpent-raitonfolk for either a Cortez analogue or notice that winter is coming.

Lea:
The raitonfolk and serpentfolk occupy separate societal casts; mingling is Not Done. Children displaying traits of both are often killed at birth to save the parents shame, if the parents are high-status; those that grow up face bigotry. A bird-snake-person is actually not a big deal, save to the (great) extent that social roles within Ixcoatli make him or her one.

You could have a suppressed messianic prophecy about an albino bird-snake-person who rises from low birth to lead the nation to new greatness, though.


Prometheus878:
Will Wavecleaver daiklaves be making a return appearance at some point? If not in the core, perhaps in the first Different Skies book?

Holden:
Probably never coming back as a highlighted independent class of daiklaves because there just isn’t much point. You might see a particular wavecleaver at some point, as a weapon specifically designed for pirate-fighting.


Dulahan:
Any chance of a cover preview, especially if the proof doesn’t get CCP approval on the first go around? Or even while we wait?

Holden:
I haven’t even seen that yet. I do, however, have a shiny new Revision 7 proof sitting in my inbox this morning.

icarr757:
Argh! You tease!

Toy with our emotions some more! How many pages?!? Or if that is giving to much info, is it more or less bullet stopping than M20?

Holden:
666 pages. Not kidding.

Tyrrell:
Is this the same draft that has been sent to CCP for approval?

Holden:
Yep!


sakii:
1)Is making poisons craft or medicine

Vance:
I think making poisons would be governed by Craft, at least in the game I’m running, if only because the crafting system handles that well.

Medicine, on the other hand, would let you know which of your stockpiled herbs and elixers become poisons rather than cures at a certain dosage.

sakii:
2)Do we have things to make special effects poisons instead of just X damage in time

Vance:
Thousand Venoms Mistress would be very sad if there weren’t.


Sigrid Hex:
Speaking of which, how is John doing? Haven’t seen him post much around here lately.

El_phantasmo:
Indeed. All good and did the medical bills get covered/significantly assisted with?

Holden:
Well, it’s a good-bad-good news thing.

John is getting better, but has been quite ill recently. The good news is that the scariest of the things they warned him about when they removed the lymph node– like facial paralysis– never happened. What did happen was that since the lymph node’s removal, he developed sleep apnea, and it’s been getting steadily worse. For those unfamiliar with it, sleep apnea is the result of one of several conditions that cause you to stop breathing in your sleep, so that you bolt awake gasping for breath as your body emergency-reboots your breathing cycle. A very mild case might have you waking up a couple times a night a few times a week.

John went from “a few times every night” to “35+ interruptions per hour, nearly every time he tried to sleep.” If you’re wondering how a person gets any sleep when he wakes up every two minutes, the answer is basically “he can’t.” After trying every kind of non-medical-bill-oriented solution under the sun, John finally went to the doctor. The good news is, they had a solution. The bad news is, the solution was dreadfully expensive.

After getting to the point where driving became dangerous and he’d gotten 3 hours of sleep spread across 4 days, he finally bit the bullet and went through all the expensive rigamarole to get a CPAP machine to regulate his breathing, toting up a bill he can’t afford to pay. He’s running a GoFundMe campaign to try to get help paying it off currently*.

The other good news is that the machine seems to be working. So thank fuck for that.

*For those wondering why the government isn’t insuring him: John lives in Florida, which is a red state. The Florida State Legislature refused to accept federal funding earmarked for the Affordable Care Act in a fit of childish pique. Meaning that in this state, if your income is below a certain threshold, you are not eligible for government-funded health insurance, because that part of the funding isn’t there, because the state won’t take it. John is too poor to qualify for the health insurance act designed to insure poor people. Ain’t American politics grand?

PirateBrd:
Donated immediately. I’m glad to see a good chunk of money has been raised already; I hope the machine fixes everything.

Holden:
Heartfelt thanks, to you and everyone else who did.


Wuse_Major:
…Apparently earlier was correct. They not only already heard back from CCP, but the turnaround was quick enough that they’re practically ready to resubmit the files for review again.

“Ex 3 core book – RichT here: Maria is sending me her corrected PDF pages tonight. We’ll need to resubmit them to CCP, as per their request, but the changes were consistent style and format concerns mostly. We will also be awaiting the Page XX page numbers from the Devs for Maria to input, which Holden realized it was time to do before sending the backer PDF out.”

….Actually, Holden, can you give us some input on what exactly goes into the giving of the Page XX stuff?

Holden:
It’s just a mind-numbingly tedious process of looking up every XX reference and documenting where it should go.

Wuse_Major:
Hey Holden, I’m curious to know how many page XX references there are in the corebook. I’m not trying to sneakily pump you for a rough deadline or anything, honest! I’ve just started to wonder, in a book that big and, presumably, with a fair amount of cross linked info, how many of those references there are. If you’d rather say something like “It averages about X per page” or whatever, I’m good. I just got to wondering.

Holden:
Hundreds, especially in Chapters Four and Five.


Matt.Ceb:
I’m kinda baffled at the cover art artist /bailing/ from the assignment that late into the process…

Holden:
Not the first time it’s happened on this project, either. My favorite was the guy who spent three months half-responding to art correction requests on sections where precision was important, then just dropped entirely with 10 art pieces 2/3rds done and had to be replaced.

Plus side, the replacement artist’s stuff looks way better.

This is a general problem when working with a lot of new talent. Try out 10 new artists, you are nearly guaranteed at least one flake.

Vargen:
Ooh, new artists! Neat! Though with a work of this size I guess you’d need to find new artists just to get it the thing finished.

Are there any new EX3 artists you’d recommend checking out while we wait for the book?

Holden:
We stopped advertising which artists we’re using because it results in crazy people emailing them.


Manaran:
So, awesome devs, can you tell me anything cool about the North? With the PDF release in sight I have to start planning our next campaign, and we’ve fairly extensively explored the East, the Scavenger Lands, and the South. Thinking stag horned fair folk and viking raids will feature prominently, but was wondering if there was anything you’d like to share?

Holden:
I think the North and the West are competing for “most improved Direction” in 3e. West has the most dramatic overhauls, North has the greatest profusion of really, really fucking cool new locales. Things like Mongolian Transylvania, a giant underground prison long ago taken over by its inmates, and a city where the nobility are rumored to have come into possession of an elixir of immortality. (Surely this is unrelated to why said nobles now go about under parasols during the day, and why the tame lynxes of the palace hiss and slink away when they approach.)


DrLoveMonkeyMD:
There’s a discussion on the official exalted forums on whether or not DB animas actually are physical expressions of that element, like fire aspect animas are actually fire or just red flamey light. Different sources seem to contradict one another, what’s ex3 say about it?

Holden:
In prior editions, only Fire Aspects generated actual literal fire, via their anima power. (Even then, it didn’t burn their possessions, so, magical fire.)

That said, a person getting their face torn to shreds by a Wood Aspect’s anima may find the question of whether these are “actual physical thorns” or just “green thorny light” kinda academic. They won’t stop a Dragon-Blood from squeezing through a tight doorway, in any event.


Anu:
Can thaumaturgy handle items that would usually be considered magical, but don’t qualify as artifacts for one reason or another? I feel like outfitting an army with arrowheads of frozen lightning.

Vance:
I suspect the magical items created by a thaumaturge would be more along the lines of, say, the famed Seven Lighting Arrows of Yusef Solomon than the kind of thing you arm battalions of lightning archers with. The scale of the latter seems more the province of a working.


You can find the next compilation here:
Q&A Summary #16