How I missed this announcement during the summer I’ll never know, but it’s actually official. Exalted 3rd edition is in development (and has been for quite awhile now) and will be out next year some time. This is great but stunning news. Stunning because both 1st and 2nd edition have TONS of books (most of which I purchased) and will have to again with 3rd edition. It’s great because as awesome as the backstory of Exalted is, as cool as the 2nd edition combat system seemed to be at the beginnings of play (with basic, unoptimized Solars vs Dragon Blooded or Mortals) it seriously needs a rework to the combat system all the way through. First, because it’s a very difficult game for a GM to plan and run without a lot of handwaving to speed up play that does not do justice to the system and second because the combat is both narratively and systematically broken. There are a lot of people that did not (and do not) want this to be true. For years Exalted discussion has dominated the RPG forums, and for good reason, there is a massive amount to discuss and argue over– the main thing here is as many issues as the system has people really care about it a lot.
This is not going to be easy to do. Exalted combat, as it stands, takes a long time, is intensely engaging for the players that get to act often (sorry archers) and involves tons of dice rolls. Your characters are rarely dealing with mooks or even mortals most of the time so the antagonists are as detailed and complicated as the player characters. In terms of bosses, much more so. This is rough on the GM who has to remember all the stunts for his antagonists AND the stunts the players have in their arsenal. It’s quite daunting to try to run a Dragon Blooded Solar hunt team and they are the weakest of the Exalts! The part that broke it for me personally is the stunt to mote engine. In order to keep going in a fight, Exalts (all of them) have to use a narrative stunt every single action they take, whether offensively or defensively. Every time they succeed, they get motes back. This makes combat drag terribly, even though the idea of narrative during fights is key and throwing out stunts is a huge no no going forward. However when you have players that are hoping that they get attacked by the mooks (who can’t hurt them anyway) so they can stunt to get their two motes back in order to fuel their perfect defenses when getting attacked by the big bad is just not a fun situation to be in as the GM. The initiative system, Perfect Attacks, Perfect defenses, Soak, Armor, Ping damage, and the total invincibility of the (updated!) version of Mask of Winters– the list of issues is long and tangled for 3rd edition to work out.
This is stuff I’d like to see (and Matt too):
No movement measure in yards – FATE uses ZONES rather than yards, etc. and it works awesome. This should be stolen. I hate Exalted chase scenes and combats where people are trying to stay just out of reach by a ‘square’ and such.
Not too many charms! – Kerberos Club allows characters to create Skills with trappings that allowed lots of stuff to be done with a single ‘power.’ even for magic users, the ability to create trappings (a trapping would be like “Strike” or “Climb”) during a session. This is cooking good if your players can grok it.
Charm cards – let’s have some official ones that players can use.
Let my character get hit! – Perfect defenses are OK in theory, but when you MUST use one to not die, it’s a problem.
Limit stunting to once per turn – either offensive stunt or defensive stunt.
That said, there has been enormous amounts of discussion around the Exalted combat system since 2nd edition came out and tons of ideas on how to fix it from some really brilliant minds (who started with the errata bringing it to 2.5). Many of these brains are working on third edition and know exactly what the system needs so I have great hope that the game will be essentially playable while holding on to that special magic that Exalted certainly has. Beyond the metaplot, which is incredible, to me it represents, along with FATE (Kerberos Club especially), the evolution of truly narrative focus for everything in an RPG (including and especially combat) that started (for me at least) with Robin Law’s FENG SHUI, so that we are not simply clearing out a room of 66 Gnolls after clearing out two rooms of 25 Gnolls, our characters are fighting for reasons and take consequences for STAKES. It’s possible in both Exalted and FATE for your character to be fundamentally changed by the outcome (other than, you know, croaking) of a single combat. As we push forward in RPG design, there are three systems that I am really looking at that I feel are carrying the torch of Feng Shui. Obviously FATE Core 3 that will come out with Atomic Robo RPG, Legends of the Wulin (which I know I will never likely PLAY outside of a con setting, but I want to absorb the system) and now, of course, Exalted 3.
And of course, I wonder what the Exalted world will look like after the events of The Return of the Scarlet Empress…
Well I had a week off and gaming got friggin’ done. A lot of it. Game after game of Shadowfist, two 5 hour + games of Talisman 4th Edition, Dragon Lairds and a weekend of handful after handful of D10’s being thrown for Exalted to top the shit off. Thanks to everyone that suffered through the debauchery, the rump-gasps, rank foists, dank, oppressive basement conditions and cursing as it was probably the most solid week of gaming I’ve had since 2004 or so. To have two days in a row that consisted of waking up at 10AM, stumbling around trying to find food and the preparing for a few hours for another almost all nighter of the ultimate nerdery is really a gift that one at my stolid age and life-choices shouldn’t be allowed to have.
Shadowfist: Some great games were played and beatings delivered (as usual). My only issue is that 4-player is the maximum enjoyable size. Five player just starts to break down, not the game engine at all, but the ability for players to play with the intensity that a multiplayer CCG requires for that long of a time. I’d rather get 2-3 three player games over the same span of time than one big-ass five or six player game. My decks did OK, with the exception of my A-list deck, which did phenomenally well in the hands of some of the less experienced players (I never played the deck myself). One player, we’ll call him STEVE, got Ting Ting, the Golden Gunman and Steven Wu out onto the table at the same time. Even though he didn’t win that game, this was a moral victory forever. The most interesting deck I saw out of the group was a horrific use of Bonechill by Mouth.
Dragon Lairds: Becoming a favorite, though one person, we’ll call him SCOTT, wins every game all the time. While this is derivative of another game (can’t remember the name), I wouldn’t play without the Tom Wham (and friends) art work.
Talisman 4th Edition: Like Shadowfist, if you have more than 4 players, you’re just not going to be able to sustain the intensity over 5 hours of play. Though the two games we got in were fun, I think that’s quite enough Talisman until the Dragon expansion is released this Fall. The new horse deck is great as well as the trinkets and non-item rewards you can get, though I am still wrestling with the ability of players to gain Craft from monster trophies. Overall though with more than 3, I would say this is just not going to be on the menu for a long time to come. Notable is that someone tried to play the Monk (who got awful nerfed in the new version) and failed. This is understandable when your only power is to have +3 to normal Combat.
Exalted: What can I say, I know the issues everyone on the internet has with this game and yet when we play it, it’s hellaciously fun. Not as much combat happened during the sessions we played compared to the last session with these characters, so only a hundred dice hit the table instead of hundreds and hundreds. I’d been planning to run one of the (very few) published adventures (with some tweaks) for the game and it worked out well, inserting some of my own characters in here and there and decreasing the difficulty when an experienced RPG gamer pulled a Steel Reserve fueled newb mistake and wandered off during a dungeon crawl portion only to be jumped and nearly destroyed by one of the most obvious traps ever conceived. While the combat has an awesome amount of crunch, I’m still not totally sold on social combat. It’s interesting, but one of my players mentioned immediately: “if this is dropping my willpower, why wouldn’t I just instantly attack?” Exactly. In two instances of social combat from published adventures, both have antagonists that speak through other mediums so they cannot be instantly attacked (Return to the Tomb of Five Corners and Daughter of Nexus). That’s telling about what players are apt to do during social combat when up against an actual enemy. From reading the interweb tubes over the last year or so, and my shock at antagonists from the Scroll of Exalts with 50+ charms, I was thinking of converting the whole campaign to Feng Shui or FATE, but after these sessions I just don’t see the point. I won’t mince words though that Exalted is a heavy bitch of a game to prep for and run as a GM, and as you get to higher power levels, well nigh impossible.
Ok well my job as a GM just got a shitload easier. Exalted antagonists are troublesome to create at best and extremely time consuming at worst. While appreciate some of the other efforts to digitize the creation process, Anathema has by far the best usability and resulting character sheets, but has been stuck with Solars and Dragon Bloods for years now– many years actually, due to the original development team backing away from the project. Well, as hinted in an over-exuberant post last summer, Anathema 2.0 has been released and includes Abyssals and Lunars AND Sidereals. I’m just grabbing it now to give it a go.
In addition to having the new splats integrated, ANATHEMA is the place that best collates all the extra charms for Solars and DB’s into one handy dandy program. So if you are just a player (and I envy you if you are because you get the easy part) this is still worth a download. You will need to procure or enter your equipment data in the system still, and the charms have no text (just page numbers in whatever tome contains them), but still it’s quite an asset for players as well as GMs.
I looked into the release notes from Anathema and there are no new splat books supported, but bug fixes and updates to the existing splats (Solar, Dragon Blooded). This is a start, again, and still one I’m excited about as a GM. Frankly, I’d love to see and update with Fair Folk, as I fundamentally do not understand how they interact when in creation– outside creation in the Wyld it’s really easy to understand shaping combat with the graces, but how they get hordes of hobgoblins and behemoths into creation to fuck shit up is really difficult to piece together with the Splat Book.
It’s been a long time– a brutally long time since Exalted’s fantastic character editor had a new version to include some of the post-Dragon Blooded splat books and expansions. I am very excited as it’s a really tough row to hoe to get some of the new character types built up, and as a GM, I have to generate tons of NPC’s (as they have a tendency to get squished a lot) and while I really like using Ed’s Exalted, the actual character sheets it generates are really quite bad and depressing, especially seeing how complete the rest of it is. Anyway, here is a link to the Anathema dev site.