[Guest Review] Exalted 3rd Edition

In light of trying to get more diverse set of opinions on various games, I’ve invited a few people to write guest articles for the blog. This one in particular is a review of Exalted 3rd Edition, from the point of view of a player. Rachel is a player in my first campaign for Exalted 3rd Edition and she was happy to share her thoughts on the game.

First, disclaimers: I had never played Exalted in any of its editions before 3E, but I did play World of Darkness a few times with various groups and friends. I also came into our game without reading the system, and only browsing the setting lightly to get a general idea of it. I did not really know the lore of Solars beyond the very general, and I had no background on how their quirks translated to mechanics. This was admittedly something of a lapse on my end — I was too busy in the weeks leading to our first session, and my GM gave constant reassurances that he would explain everything when we get there, which I suppose added to the laziness.

But I digress. My points is that this review is in no way representative of how others would see the game, only that it is a relaying of my particular experiences as a player. I am neither a GM nor an old-timer returning to a newly revised system, but someone completely new to the franchise.

Character Creation
While I had no idea about the setting of Exalted and how the system is different from the WoD franchise, the character sheet was easy for me to understand and fill out. All I needed was the point allocation for attributes, skills, and merits, and a brief on the small differences this sheet had from WoD.

Let me tell you: Wow, that is a lot of points to allocate. While our characters started out as mortals, we were making sheets as Solars and only marking off what dots would not be available to us yet before our Exaltation. I had never come close to 5-dots in an attribute before, let alone multiple skills. If the lore of being powerful beings capable of great feats did not hammer the fact home that our characters were basically supermen, the number of dots committed to paper certainly did.

In any case, I made a Solar of the Twilight Caste named Elise Maxwell, a young shipwright aboard the Sleeping Sand, a cargo sandship her father captains. This isn’t her first ship, either, having grown up in both sea and sand as the perpetual companion of her father through his different contracts and commissions. Her skills are primarily in carpentry and sailing. She’s superstitious but fearless, athletic and energetic, guileless in matters of bureaucracy, politics, and the upper echelons of society, and all in all just a young girl who wants to do good for the world. Elise is also, as it so happens, strong as an ox.

I had a bit of a conundrum in filling out my sheet in the sense that, because I had no idea what typical Solar sheets looked like, I tried not to max any of the skills out and strove to give my character what might pass for reasonable and not overpowered numbers. “I’m not gonna make her OP!” I said, full of innocence and good intentions. Remember this for the later sections, because this is also a story of how Elise was actually anything but not OP.

Anyway, there was a new part of the dots sheet that I had to fill in called Intimacies. To my understanding, these are the aspects and motivations of a character that defines them, so I started off by treating it like Aspects in Fate Core, and then moved on to list down personality triggers and the like. “Don’t touch my things,” was a big item, and so was, “A day’s work for a day’s pay,” referring to Elise’s attitude of expecting rewards directly proportional to work rendered — a very sailor attitude, really. Later she develops the intimacy of “My father is all I have,” to facilitate her narrative of protectiveness towards her father when the latter comes under threat, but this is offset by her tendency to turn her emotions into productive things. Instead of focusing on revenge, she instead gains the intimacy of, “I must fix what has been done to my father” as a motivation for her next actions.

This portion of the sheet was nice to do start off with, because immediately it gives the player a very firm directive that Roleplay Happens in This Game, Guys, and that roleplaying can be rewarded and is also facilitated to an extent through limit breaks. I like to revisit my intimacies after sessions, just to see if Elise changed in any big way as a result of the evening’s activities. In a way, they are to me like facts that I must remember or are developed as the character grows.

Dice Rolling
I like dice rolling here in that 0s count as two successes, rather than exploding, since that is actually statistically more flat out successes than rerolling 0s. On the other hand, I suppose that’s why some encounters can get really difficult, but you’re relying on those 0s to push you through a contest.

What I do notice is that like most other fists-of-dice games, figuring out how many dice you’re rolling, the adjustments due to charms, gathering them, rolling them, more adjustments due to charms, and counting your successes takes way more time than the resolution of what you actually rolled for. Our GM only asks for rolls when he thinks it’s needed and we’ve gotten fairly fast at it (after the initial round of, “how do you count x again?” that’s inevitable for games with oft long gaps between sessions), but I can see the system getting bogged down if you have to roll every little thing.

I think the most dice I had to roll was 21 for a crafting roll, which was perfect because I had exactly 21 d10s at the time (I have more now). The first roll gave me a total of 15 successes, which allowed me to fix a battle-damaged ship single handedly in a day. That was fun in narrative, especially because Elise thought nothing of it and was only surprised at the shock she received.


People kept on warning me coming in that combat in Exalted can be really tedious with dice rolling and actions, but I found it be to fairly fast-paced and intense, over in just a few rounds. Maybe it’s because I haven’t fought in full force against another Exalt yet, but all my combat have been over in five turns or less.

Combat can get complex since you have to track initiative, and this initiative keeps on yoyo-ing up and down depending on the success of your actions. There are two kinds of rolls in Exalted: withering and decisive actions. Withering strikes are meant to raise your own initiative and lower the initiative of your enemy, whereas decisive actions take the gap between the initiative scores of yours and your enemy’s, and use that to score attacks against the enemy’s HP track.

In essence, Exalted combat is all about initiative, and setting up people’s initiatives so when you take decisive actions, it is to devastate.

I rather like the two-fold approach to combat, because it lends itself to different playstyles rather than favoring those with straight forward combat styles. It also allows for creative actions while fighting, because if you don’t want to or simply cannot directly damage an enemy, you can take up any other kind of action and still contribute to the combat by reducing the enemy’s initiative for your comrades. In the first combat scene I had for Exalted, I spent majority of it rolling barrels of burning pitch at bandits and their horses, and was able to do so to great effect.

Elise also has a hammer, which adds a whopping 11 dice to withering damage. I had no idea having a mallet would do such a thing, but now when Elise hits something for withering strikes, she really will hurt a lot. It’s always a bit of a point of hilarity because the image of a petite shipwright using physics against mooks to smash their jaws off is really awful. So much for not being OP, when Elise is actually this monstrous smasher of the unsuspecting.

Exalted also rewards players who describe their actions with embellishments and those who do creative and cool things by giving additional dice. I believe they called this stunting, which I enjoy a lot because it’s truly fun when everyone on the table makes an effort to visually describe what their character is doing.

I feel that I should take a moment here to appreciate naval combat in Exalted. I’ve only experienced it a couple of times (hah, my dots in sails getting use), but I can say that it’s fairly sufficient in its simplicity. It takes into consideration the appropriate modifiers of the ship its crew is handling as well as the captain’s stats for its moveset, without going into the bog of asking for specific stats for different aspects of the ship. I have a tendency to check out sailing rules for RPGs when they have it just to see how sailing rolls are treated, and Exalted is one of the few where I’ve been satisfied with it in relation to the rest of its mechanisms. Even the *World supplements that handle naval warfare have managed to be both really specific and really vague at it at the same time.


One of the things I have complained about to my GM is that the character sheet is frankly pretty deficient when it comes to charms and crafting. Charms are difficult to articulate with the format they provide, especially since in the books, charms have really lengthy descriptions of what they do. I had to first print all the charms and mark anything Essence 1 that seemed interesting to me, and then count and track prerequisites and other things. In my despair, I actually created a document just to reformat my Crafts charms into a table that is easy to peruse — considering that I have thirteen crafting charms that I all have to keep track off when building something, this was not just a nice thing to have but a complete necessity.

Now, I’ll acknowledge that I didn’t actually have to get thirteen charms for one skill, but Crafts have the most charms listed in the game under several sub-categories. At essence 1 I could choose among 15 or 16 already, and that’s not counting the higher-level charms I could get owing to my specialization. My friends who chose to have more social or combat-oriented characters had more diverse charms lists — some melee here, a few resistance there, a bit of persuasion — so I reckon it was easier for them to track the ones they could use for the situation. I sort of wish there were charm cards for Ex3, akin to D&D cards, but I didn’t actually have the time nor patience for it when a chart did the job just as well.

What I like about charms, though, is that they can really set you apart from other members of your party. I enjoy the reaction my fellow players have when I get to regale them with a charm that they didn’t know existed, and the surprise of NPCs is always a point of humour when we pull out small surprises on them.


Speaking of crafting in this game, my GM had mentioned crafting as being its own minigame in Ex3, and I had forgotten about it when making my character. I typically shy away from the heavier mechanics of any new system I’m entering due to having to learn everything about the system from scratch, but alas, here I am.

Like I said in the section above, the character sheet can be lacking when it comes to crafting. There is a lot to track when you choose to involve yourself with it seriously, and the sheet doesn’t facilitate it or make it any easier. For example, you can have anywhere from 3 to 5 projects at level one to keep track of, all with their own rolls, EXP expenditure, and EXP gains.

Apart from the EXP and Solar EXP everyone has, crafting gives you Silver, Gold, and White EXP, which you earn from completing crafting projects and achieving very specific objectives as dictated by the book.

There are two things I want to elaborate on there: EXP expenditure and book-dictated objectives.

First, yes, you actually have to spend crafting EXP for some projects. How it works is like so:

1. Do basic projects or repairs for free to earn silver exp.
2. Spend 10 silver exp for every attempt at completing a major project and earn gold exp.
3. Spend 10 gold exp for every attempt at completing superior projects (artifacts), on top of the 3 – 5 gold EXP you spend based on artifact rank, and earn white exp. It sounds easy, but it actually has a whole list of requirements and skills as well.
4. Spend white exp for legendary projects.

Completion is basically succeeding at your rolls, and while the successes are cumulative, every roll is counted as an attempt. At the current level I’m at, I haven’t actually figured out how to do major projects that give me back more silver EXP than I was required to spend on it. I have been earning some gold EXP every project, which I know will be helpful later, but it seems that the only way for me to reliably generate silver EXP is to do a lot of basic crafting and repairing a lot of things. Basically, you have to roleplay the grind for silver EXP!

I make it sound tedious, but in truth I actually have fun with it. It helps that my character generally tends to also destroy things by accident, or tries to fix things unsolicited, and so her obsession with fixing things is just another intimacy to enhance narrative. But I do feel that the creators of the game put a lot of crunch into crafting to dissuade the abuse of artifact creation, which I understand to be very strong tools in the setting.

Crafting an artifact, for example, also requires the following apart from the gold EXP: “Lore 3, Occult 3, a relevant Craft Ability rated to at least 4, and must then purchase dots of Craft (Artifacts)”. Crafts is a skill you can buy over and over, one per craft you have under your belt. For example, I have Craft:Carpentry at 5 dots, and Craft:Weaving at 2 dots (those sails don’t make themselves). Creating an artifact means you need to get Crafts:Artifact on top of everything else, and dedicate three major project slots for the six weeks to two years (depending on rank) it will take you to complete the artifact.

It seems like an interesting if a little grindy system to facilitate crafting, but I can see issues with being able to complete anything more significant than a major project for groups that don’t play frequently. The amount of in-game time invested into creating artifacts is huge, and this on top of the dots, slots in charms, and EXP you need to gather and spend to complete something. I haven’t actually begun to craft artifacts, but it’s next in my list of things to do in the game for Elise’s father who recently lost his eyesight. Being truly specialized in crafting works for Elise because I can get really creative in combat and other situations, though, so I don’t think I have a lot to worry about.

Now that we’re done talking about EXP consumption, let’s talk about basic objectives. This is actually where I have issues with crafting, because the book dictates that you can only get EXP for completing projects if the following objectives are fulfilled, as defined by the book:

1. When finishing your project causes another character to gain or strengthen an Intimacy toward you (for example, a Solar craftsman strengthening a young soldier’s armor on the eve of battle, producing a minor Intimacy of gratitude in the man), you gain crafting experience.
2. When finishing your project produces a clear in-game gain for your character, such as a monetary payment, or a new Merit like Allies or Contacts, you gain crafting experience.
3. When finishing your project upholds, furthers, or protects one of your character’s Intimacies, you gain crafting experience.

It seems flexible enough at first glance, but it doesn’t actually apply to a lot of the basic or even major projects you do, even when the context of the projects are reasonably important in the storyline. I understand that this is supposed to encourage or inspire a certain type of roleplay when it comes to crafting — another attempt, perhaps, to link it to narrative — but I find it to be rather constraining instead because it implies that only certain kinds of crafting are worth doing. When the crafting system can become a grind for EXP, I feel that the conditions for gaining this currency will inevitably lead to crafters trying to make their creations “count”.

Wow, I didn’t expect to get long-winded about crafting in Ex3, of all things, but it does have its own system within the game itself so it’s a big aspect of the game to tackle.

As an aside, I did figure out on my own how to use crafting for combat: Using Shattering Grasp, a charm, allows Elise to basically destroy things with her bare hands (or a tool, as in the case of her mallet). I’ve stripped enemies of weapons with this, as well as destroyed major enemy arsenal and fortifications with high rolls.

In conclusion!

I like the Ex3 system a lot because it encourages play that appeals to my visual imagination. From things like describing the destruction of walls to swinging a hammer around in a mighty blow, it’s all very vivid imagery in my head that really adds a lot of fun to the game. There are other systems that inspire the sort of animated and elaborate explanations I tend to give in Exalted narration, but Exalted I feel rewards this the most and is the most fun.

Apart from that, I find it to be a system with well-thought out mechanics for pretty much all encounters, though I do think in many instances that it can go overboard with how much you have to do mechanically to actually act on something in the game. It seems to be a system that is very particular about balance, which is funny in retrospect when I think about how the characters — Solars, in the case of my game — are capable of god-like feats as new Exalts.

Would this potato recommend the game? Yes, it’s a lot of fun, and can support many different play styles. It can get a bit number crunchy at some points, but depending on how the GM treats the game, that isn’t necessarily a truth for all Exalted games.

[Let’s Study Exalted 3rd Edition] Part 8: Antagonists, Artifacts and Review


Now for the final stretch!


Exalted 3rd edition is well aware that it has to provide a lot of opposition. The paradox of having Solars as protagonists is that since they’re the mightiest of the Chosen, they need some really heavy firepower to go up against them, or else they’ll simple run everything over.

To that end, the book provides a means to create Quick Characters, singular opponents that don’t need super-specific stats.

Furthermore, they also provide a wide range of opponents (and potential allies) in the book. Starting from the standard bandit, all the way to examples of the other Exalts. Each known Exalt type is given at least 1 writeup in the chapter, along with sample charms for you to get the feel of what they can do.

The Antagonists do a great job of making the game feel epic, as something as “common” as a Blood Ape first circle Demon has a few tricks that can turn a non combat Solar into a red smear if they’re not careful!


The last chapter of the book talks about gear. Weapons are presented with a standardized set of stats depending on whether or not the weapon is light, medium or heavy. What differentiates them are the weapon tags that describe how each kind of weapon can enable special actions.

Armor works in a similar fashion, providing Soak and Hardness.

Artifacts are much more powerful versions with a higher number of bonuses to each stat. What really makes Artifacts interesting, however, are Evocations.


At artifact rating 3, an item can develop evocations. These are special abilities that an artifact bestows it’s owner but only after the artifact and the owner have established some sort of bond.

Evocations make for some truly storied artifacts, and the examples in the corebook are definitely interesting. But as with Martial Arts and sorcerous Rituals, I’m hoping that there will be rules in the future on how to design such artifacts. There’s so much potential here for some very good stories.


Exalted Third Edition is the glorious return of a game that I had almost given up on. It’s funny how my experience with the game mirrored a lot of the in-game history.

The first edition was my First Age, full of wonder and promise that collapsed under the weight of complexity.

The Second edition was my Age of Sorrows. I wanted to like it, but it failed to capture my imagination.

This latest edition however, brings back the feel and mood that I loved, while demonstrating a stronger mechanical rigor that helps it stand despite the complexity demanded by the setting.

Each subsystem has been carefully considered and playtested, and adds a different kind of fun to different players. But what struck me the most was the fact that a lot of the gamey mechanics actually relied on a lot of role-play to pull off.

Social Influence rules are an easy example for this, as the player must think and act like they’re really looking for social leverage before they can act, or else the odds are stacked against them.

The changes to the setting are well considered, and while there are a few add-ons that feel a bit difficult to accept at first (like the Liminals) others were things that I didn’t know I wanted until I saw them, like the Exigents.

Creation is familiar and yet feels renewed once more. Solars have arrived and there’s a stronger call for them to become heroes more than ever.

Despite the delays in production, and the myriad little things that went wrong and slowed it down, the end result is a thing of beauty. I’m glad to have backed this book, and even happier to put down money to buy a print version when it finally becomes available on PoD.

If you’ve ever wanted to play Exalted, or if you’re still on the fence on whether or not this is a good evolution of the game, don’t worry, and jump in. You won’t regret it.

Finally we’ve made it to the end of this Let’s Study Series. Thanks for reading along with me!

You can now get a copy of Exalted 3rd Edition from DriveThruRPG in PDF and PoD versions starting from $29.99

Also, this Let’s Study series was made possible by the generosity of our supporters in Patreon. If you’d like to see me come up with more of these, please consider becoming a patron!

[Let’s Study Exalted 3rd Edition] Part 7: Martial Arts and Sorcery


Right, chugging right along then to the next section of the book!


Martial arts holds a special place in a lot of Exalted gamers. As a special subset of charms, martial arts are different in the sense that they ARE known in the game fiction (along with their names) and are taught to students as they progress down a given path.

Martial Arts are also different in the sense that different Exalts can access them differently. Solars, Abyssals and Sidereals are the most able, and Dragon-Blooded can access somewhat less efficient versions.

Each martial arts style works with a small selection of weapons, so you can usually spot a martial artist by their gear. Armor is generally incompatible with martial arts, and most styles only have a tolerance for a certain amount of it before it becomes too constricting or limiting to be able to perform martial arts with.


For the core book, the following styles are available: Snake, Tiger, Single Point Shining Into the Void (something like a quickdraw single-sword style aking to Iaijutsu,) White Reaper, Ebon Shadow, Crane, Silver-Voiced Nightingale, Righteous Devil, Black Claw, Dreaming Pearl Courtesan, Steel Devil Styles.

It’s a big list that covers a great range of different fighting styles. From defensive ones that also play with the social system (Crane Style) to ones that are just scary (Tiger, Steel Devil.) There’s plenty here to want to try.

In summary, Martial Arts makes me want to play in a game, but I’m the ST, so I guess it sucks to be me.


Now we go on to take a peek at the Sorcery of Exalted. Like Social Influence, the Sorcery System has had a bit of an overhaul.

To gain access to Sorcery, one has to get a charm for it, usually starting off with the Terrestrial Circle and progress upwards. Some Exalts have limits to their ability to perform Sorcery, with Dragon-Blooded and Liminal Exalted being able to only initiate themselves to the Terrestrial Circle.


The act of casting a spell is handled differently in this edition. Rather than spending turns waiting for the Shape Sorcery action to happen, it now has a more active mechanic.

In each turn, a sorceror makes a Shape Sorcery roll of Intelligence + Occult. Each success in this action adds one Sorcerous Mote to the spell. These motes aren’t drawn from the sorceror but from the Essence around them.

Once the spell has enough Sorcerous Motes, the spell then happens reflexively and immediately. This means that on a good roll, it’s possible to cast a spell on the same turn you started casting it. The costs are still rather steep, however, and require about 15m for even the simplest of spells.


Another new concept is the idea of Control Spells, a type of signature spell that the sorceror has mastered to the point that casting it gives them further benefits.


To add further flavor to sorcerer characters, the third edition also introduces Shaping Rituals. These are alternate ways by which a sorcerer can gain sorcerous motes for spellcasting.

These can be gained through a myriad of ways, and the book provides a few examples that range from making deals with spirits to powerful relics.

The examples provided in the book are all very flavorful, but I do wish we had access to more. I know we’re getting a book about these, so I’m willing to wait… and hope that they’ll have ruleson how to design custom Shaping Rituals.


Outside of just the spell list in the game (which is substantial,) characters can also attempt Sorcerous Workings, which are a magical means to permanently reshape the world through their occult skill, enacting blessings, curses or transformations.

Sorcerous Workings are interesting since it gives you leeway to work on wondrous enchantments like blessing a field, levying a curse and making a floating castle.

Sorcerous Workings aren’t quick and are graded according to their Ambition which is the scope of the project, Finesse, which determines how much of the working will follow the sorcerer’s exact specifications and Means, which are resources that the Sorcerer brings to bear.

Sorcerous Working are a great source of storylines, and I can see an entire circle working together to make their sorcerer’s Working happen.

I’ll confess, in all my years of Exalted gaming, I had never taken Martial Arts Charms, nor thought of dabbling into a Sorcerer character.

That all changes in this edition. The Martial Arts charms are evocative and fun, and the way they’re structured is a great way to add solid flavor and flair to a character. Sorcery on the other hand is more wondrous, and I’m glad that while some of the iconic spells are still around, a lot has been folded into the Sorcerous Workings mechanics to make magic feel that extra bit more awe-inspiring among the Chosen.

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at the Antagonists in Exalted 3rd Edition.

You can now get a copy of Exalted 3rd Edition from DriveThruRPG in PDF and PoD versions starting from $29.99

Also, this Let’s Study series was made possible by the generosity of our supporters in Patreon. If you’d like to see me come up with more of these, please consider becoming a patron!

[Let’s Study Exalted 3rd Edition] Part 6: Charms


Today we take on Charms.

To those unfamiliar with the setting, the Exalted are able to harness Essence to do incredible feats of skill and magical tricks. These are called Charms (which is different from Sorcery, which we’ll get to eventually.)

One of the first things that the game tells you about Charms in Exalted 3rd Edition is that their names as presented in the book aren’t present in the Fiction of the game. Exalts don’t know they’re using “Charms” at all, instead they’re simply doing things that they can do.

In some ways, the “Charm” system is a mechanical function similar to the Withering and Decisive attacks discussed in the sample combat. The names are cool and evocative, but serve the player rather than the character.


One of the interesting things about Charms in this edition is that they sometimes cost more than just motes of Essence and points of Willpower. In fact, there’s a surprisingly large list of costs including: motes, willpower, health levels (bashing, lethal and aggravated), anima levels, initiative points, experience and crafting experience points (silver, gold and white).


Old hands in Exalted will recognize these, but Charms are also sorted by type, which dictate when and how they can be used.

Simple charms count as a combat action and can only be used on the character’s turn. It can’t be used in a flurry and you can only use one simple charm per round.

Supplemental charms are used to enhance another non-magical action. Multiple supplemental charms can be used as long as the character is taking appropriate actions. You can’t however apply multiple applications of the same Charm on the same action.

Reflexive Charms are charms that act like interrupts, kicking in as their activation conditions become valid as long as the player spends for their costs. Reflexing Charms can’t be stacked in the same way that Supplemental Charms are.

Permanent Charms are ones that take effect permanently upon purchase.


With regards to combos, those are gone.


Good riddance. Combos used to be a big experience sink, and it just felt like a weird way to resolve something. I’m glad they’re gone as it opens up a lot of flexibility for the Exalts to trigger whatever combination of charms makes sense (and they can afford.)


Excellencies are now a fundamental power of all Exalts. Solars funnel pure Essence into a task, granting them extra dice. The limit for solars is their Attribute + Ability pool for the task.

Excellencies count as Charms, and are automatically gained for each Caste and Favored Ability that the character has, as well as for any other ability that has at least one Charm. These excellencies cost NO experience at all to obtain.


The Charm chapter of Exalted is a MONSTER, starting in page 250 and ending in page 423. With regards to how they are, written and designed, I get the impression that to truly appreciate them you really do need to play them through.

There’s a certain amount of stacking that takes place, and while it seems kind of weird to have charms that only give, say a +1 bonus to Defense for the time being, it’s important to note that many of those were designed to scale. As the Exalt gets stronger, the charm does too.

I’m very happy with the Socialize and Linguistics charms, as I’ve always been partial to the Eclipse, but I think the Crafts Charms is perhaps the biggest tree in the game. There’s a lot, and one comment I’ve seen is that it all feels very mechanical.

Overall, Exalted’s Charms are a splendid work. It’s a monster to read through, but certainly rewarding if you already have a concept in mind.

An important thing to remember is that unless an Ability is tagged as a Supernal Ability of a character, they’re limited to just Essence 1 charms. This cuts down on the reading by a lot, as you only need to go through about seven charms per ability as opposed to all of them.

Some people miss the charm cascade diagrams, but I’ve learned to get around that need in my head. Besides, you can find them on the internet these days.

Next up, Martial Arts and Sorcery!

You can now get a copy of Exalted 3rd Edition from DriveThruRPG in PDF and PoD versions starting from $29.99

Also, this Let’s Study series was made possible by the generosity of our supporters in Patreon. If you’d like to see me come up with more of these, please consider becoming a patron!

[Let’s Study Exalted 3rd Edition] Part 5d: Crafting & Naval Combat


Welcome back! Let’s go ahead and continue with our look at some of Exalted 3rd Edition’s subsystems shall we?


I’ve heard a lot of weird negative feedback on the Crafting system of Exalted ever since the backer PDF was released. Some people felt it had too much bean-counting, and was too slow, or otherwise inelegant.

I see where some of this is coming from, after a fashion, but so far the player in my game who is playing a Shiprwright / Carpenter is having a blast!

In any case, to craft something in the system is to embark on a project. These projects are rated by difficulty: Basic, Major, Superior and Legendary. Most projects in a Crafter’s life will be Basic and Major, as Superior and Legendary are the domain of Artifact creation.

A crafter also begins with a set of Project Slots, which represent the time and attention that a crafter has to tend to a project. There’s only so many things you can have up in the air before you start messing up.

Crafting experience on the other hand is a resource that is gained by successfully completing projects. These are sorted by type: Silver for basic projects, and spent on Major projects. Gold for Major projects and spent to finish Superior projects. White for Superior projects and spent to finish legendary projects.

It’s an interesting system, as it creates a pyramid where you HAVE to work on projects to earn the kind of experience you need for higher level projects. You can speed up the experience gain by having the crafting attempt meet objectives.

Objectives include: Finishing a project to cause another character to gain or strengthen an Intimacy towards you. Finishing a project to produce a clear in-game gain for your character such as payment or a new merit like allies or contacts. When finishing your project upholds, furthers, or protects one of your character’s Intimacies.

I like this additional bonus as it encourages more interaction among the characters and to help promote a gifting culture where Crafters find ways to use their gifts to push social agendas.

Now, I can see why some people might have issues with this. The amount of projects you need to be working on to earn the experience needed to spend on higher tier projects is a little worrisome, but I feel as long as the crafting character is working on something at any given time it will add up at a reasonable rate. Also, it’s not like your Exalt ought to be churning out Artifact Weapons and Armor every day anyway, even if you’re a Solar.


Another subsystem that merits mention would be Naval Combat. Sail tends to get the short end of the stick in some games, so seeing a somewhat more gamey system backing it up here was a great surprise for me.

Naval Combat is resolved in rounds where both captains make contested rolls to try and beat the other and execute stratagems.

These Stratagems are fueled by spending Momentum, a resource gained by executing the Positioning stratagem. Once you have enough Momentum, you can then spend them to execute more stratagems like Broadside, Ram and even Concealment.

Boarding is a slightly more complicated maneuver, as once the boarding action succeeds, Naval Combat shifts to standard combat.

It’s a simple system, to be sure, but one that is surprisingly rewarding to the sailing player. It’s paced, and there’s a sense of tension as both sides get ready to do some damage to the other while avoiding getting hit. And when the ship starts boarding, everyone gets in on the fun. Very cool stuff.

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at Charms, I won’t be going over each and every one (I want to finish this Let’s Study series before Christmas, after all) but we can go over the basics and my impressions on the new mechanics.

You can now get a copy of Exalted 3rd Edition from DriveThruRPG in PDF and PoD versions starting from $29.99

Also, this Let’s Study series was made possible by the generosity of our supporters in Patreon. If you’d like to see me come up with more of these, please consider becoming a patron!

[Let’s Study Exalted 3rd Edition] Part 5c: Battle Groups and Social Influence


Hey there, it’s been a few days, but I’m back again with more Exalted! Today we’re looking at a few more subsystems introduced in the game.


While we went over the combat rules in Exalted in our previous post, Battle Groups are essentially a mechanical abstraction meant to be used to simulate the presence of large numbers of opponents that aren’t that relevant, story-wise. These are the palace guards, the angry mob, the army of the bad guy. Nameless opponents who attack en masse.

The rules governing Battle Groups is a simple modification of the standard rules of Exalted combat. The difference is that they have a few additional considerations, such as how many and how well trained they are and if they are in the possession of any special / supernatural advantages.

While regular combat in Exalted is best when dealing with named opponents or big fights. If Exalts have to go up against “lesser” opponents, it’s better to go through the Battle Groups.


This is probably my favorite subsystem in Exalted 3rd. The Social Influence rules (no longer Social Combat, like in 2e) work off the Intimacies of each character.

Clever play with the Social Influence system involves roleplaying to set up the proper understanding of your target’s intimacies so that you can leverage them when you make your approach. It’s clever, and encourages players to take a more active role in roleplaying their approach.

I’m very glad they took this approach because social maneuvering is inherently different from combat and this feels a lot more natural as opposed to having weird “Social ambush” situations.

Exalted 3rd is a showcase of interesting new subsystems, and we’re not even done yet. In our next article we’ll take a peek at the systems for Crafting and Naval Combat.

You can now get a copy of Exalted 3rd Edition from DriveThruRPG in PDF and PoD versions starting from $29.99

Also, this Let’s Study series was made possible by the generosity of our supporters in Patreon. If you’d like to see me come up with more of these, please consider becoming a patron!

[Let’s Study Exalted 3rd Edition] Part 5b: Combat 101, Or Twelve-Merit Scholar Gets Into A Bar Fight


Hey everyone, welcome to another week of Let’s Study Exalted 3rd Edition. Today we’re starting off with a combat Example starring  the Dawn Caste Solar we put together in our Character Creation article, Twelve-Merit Scholar.

For context let’s have the following scenario.

Twelve-Merit Scholar (or Twelve, for short) has been trying to lie low from his recent, rather overt actions that took place in a Guild warehouse in the docks involving a blazing inferno that ruined whatever contraband the Guild was hoping to sell.

So our hero is presently in the corner of a seedy bar with his back to the wall, nursing a watered down drink that surely must have been piss by the way it smelled. It was then that some beggar shuffled inside and nervously pointed him out.

Twelve resigned himself to the fact that hiding wasn’t really one of his strong points.

The beggar stepped aside as a young man in gleaming red jade armor entered the establishment, a red jade daiklaive already in hand.

Customers bolted at the sight of the Dynast, fearful of the possible violence to come.

“So you’re the one who burned down the warehouse.” The Dragon-Blooded smiled, “I suppose I should thank you. The Guild was eager to overlook a few outstanding favors in exchange for your head. If you’ll just stand still, I can at least promise you that this will be painless.”

“Generous.” Twelve grinned, “But I’m afraid I intend to fight this out all the same, if you don’t mind.”

The Dynast shrugged, “Suit yourself.”


Okay, to start combat, both sides make their Join Battle rolls, which is done by adding rolling a pool of d10’s equal to their Wits + Awareness.

Twelve has Wits 4 and Awareness 3, plus an extra die for his Fast Reflexes merit and rolls 10 10 9 8 8 7 6 4  for a whopping 8 successes!

The Dynast rolls six dice for 10 7 7 3 3 1  and nets 4 successes.

These successes are then added to a Base Initiative value of 3, for a final result of 11 for Twelve and 7 for the Dynast.


In Exalted 3rd Edition, attacks are mechanically classified as either Withering or Decisive. It’s important to note that these are mechanical distinctions that do not exist within the fiction of the game. Exalted characters attack with the full intent of harming the other.

In game terms however, Withering Attacks are those that degrade an opponent’s combat momentum while improving the character’s own. This combat momentum is represented by the character’s Initiative score. The higher the character’s Initiative, the greater the potential to deliver some truly savage punishment.


On the other hand, Decisive Attacks are ones that actually deal damage to the character’s health levels. These attacks do not use a weapon’s damage rating, but the attacker’s current Initiative Score as the base dice pool. Therefore, it is important to build up a good amount of Initiative before you can reliably deal damage to your opponent, especially if the opponent is wearing armor.

Twelve knew that he had to rush right inside the Dynast’s weapon reach to try and dominate the fight from there. He opens with a vicious combination of punches, forcing the Dynast back and off balance as he tried to defend himself with no place to swing his dailklaive!


Twelve’s player decides to further improve on his Initiative score by going for a Withering Attack. He then rolls Twelve’s Dexterity 4 + Brawl 5 + Specialty (Bare-Handed) 1, Weapon Accuracy Bonus 4 and Stunt bonus of 2 for a total of 16 dice. He has to roll equal to or greater than his opponent’s Defense score of 4.

He rolls 10 10 9 9 8 7 5 5 4 4 3 3 3 3 2 2  for 8 succeses, a hit! He also notes that he has 5 threshold successes. This is important as these are then added to his Raw Damage Pool, which is composed of Twelve’s Strength 4 + Weapon Damage of 7 for a total of 16 dice!

He then removes a number of dice equal to his opponent’s Soak (11 from the Jade armor!) and rolls the remaining 5 dice to determine his damage. He gets 10 7 6 3 2  for a total of 3 successes.

As a bonus for a successful Withering Attack, Twelve gains 1 Initiative right away. He then gains an amount of Initiative equal to the damage he rolls, for a further +3 to his Initiative Score.

This brings his Initiative up from 11 to a current value of 15.

Meanwhile, his opponent loses Initiative equal to the damage rolled, dropping him to 4.

The Dynast backpedals, but decides that he’s had enough. This brigand could fight, but it would take more than talent to best one of the Chosen of the Dragons! He shifts his weight and drops low while twisting clockwise, bringing his blade around to slice at Twelve’s legs with a back-hand strike.

Twelve catches the motion and realizes to take a risky counter by throwing a low left kick to strike at the Dynast’s wrist to block the blow!

The Dynast’s attempt to reduce Twelve’s Initiative advantage comes in the form of his own  Withering Attack. The ST spends 4 of the Dragon-blooded’s peripheral motes of Essence to bolster his Daiklaive attack of 9 dice + stunt bonus of 2 by another 4 for a final result of 15. His difficulty is Twelve’s Parry Defense of 5, and +1 bonus to his Defense thanks to his own stunt for a final value of 6.

The ST rolls 9 8 7 6 6 6 6 6 5 4 3 2 1 1 1  for only 2 successes! This isn’t enough to meet the difficulty of the task and so the attack fails.


At the end of each round, all Exalted combatants recover 5 motes of Essence.

Twelve hasn’t spent any, but the Dynast gets his 4 motes back.


Twelve takes advantage of his opponent’s failure (and crouching position) by following up his parry with a vicious right knee to the Dynast’s unprotected face!

The desperate Dynast infuses his reflexes with Essence in order to block the attack in time, raising his free hand to catch the strike!


Decisive Attacks are different in the sense that the character only rolls their raw Attribute + Ability plus bonuses. They do NOT get to add their Weapon Accuracy at all in this pool.

Twelve then rolls his Dexterity 4 + Brawl 5 + Specialty 1 and 2 dice from his Stunt for a total of 12. Not comfortable with the odds just yet, Twelve’s player decides to spend 6 motes on a Brawl Excellency charm, adding 1 more die for each mote spent. He also spends 1 Willpower to buy 1 automatic success!

The ST declares that the Dynast is suffusing his body with Essence and spends 4 motes to increase his Parry Defense to 8!

Twelve’s player rolls 10 10 9 9 8 8 7 7 7 5 5 5 5 4 4 2 1 1  for 11 successes and a threshold of 4! The attack hits!

Twelve’s player decides to add insult to the injury by triggering Heaven Thunder Hammer, a charm that allows her Solar to multiply the force of their attack many times over!

For damage, Twelve’s player rolls a dice pool equal to his current Initiative Score of 15. This exceeds the Dynast’s armor’s Hardness rating, and therefore any successes go straight through to damage! Unlike other rolls in the game, 10’s don’t count as 2 successes for damage.

Twelve rolls 10 9 9 8 8 7 6 5 5 5 4 3 2 2 1 for Six successes, dealing 6 health levels of damage. But that’s not all, thanks to Heaven Thunder Hammer, the Dynast is also thrown back into an object with tremendous force! This deals damage as if the Dynast had fallen from Medium height.

Falling damage does both Damage Levels as well as a pool of Damage Dice. These ignore both Soak and Hardness and is applied to a character’s Health Track.

A quick lookup at the Falling Damage chart shows that the Dynast receives 4 Lethal automatic damage, and Twelve’s player rolls 7 dice of bashing damage on top of that. Twelve continues this exercise in cruelty and rolls 10 9 9 6 5 5 1  for 3 more bashing health levels.

The Dynast brings his hand up in time to catch the blow, and for a split second the thought of victory crossed his mind.

That was quickly erased as he realized that not even his Essence-laden body was able to slow the strike for an instant. Time slowed for the Dragon-blood as he felt the blow land on his face, his cheekbones fracturing, and his neck cracking in three places.

He hurtled backwards head first, his body twisting like a rag doll thrown by a toddler in the midst of a tantrum to smash into the wall of the bar. Cracks on the wall radiated from the point of impact, leaving the Dynast’s head stuck inside.

Twelve-Merit Scholar straightened, then frowned as he felt the familiar sensation of his Caste Mark manifesting on his forehead. He saunted over to the body of the Dynast and picked up the Jade Daiklaive with a whistle.

“Looks like it’s time to go.”



Combat in Exalted is still pretty much a “Fistfuls of Dice” affair, but I really do like the Withering/Decisive combat mechanics. It lends the fight with a feeling more more weight, and helps give the sense of making tactical decisions without needing to resort to a grid and miniatures for positioning.

Overall, I found this a lot more fun than the Ticks and Battlewheel system of the previous edition, and I was able to run 4 combat scenes in one session last night in my home Exalted campaign, something that would have been impossible for me with 2e.

In our next entry, we’ll take a look at the other subsystems of Exalted 3rd Edition, including Combat Groups.

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