The edited text for EX3 is now completely in layout. Art Director Maria Cabardo did her "bulk layout" phase, "dropping in the edited text into a very simple layout format in order to see if the fonts and the font sizes that she wants to use work for the text, and very importantly, just how many pages this tome actually is", and she and I fiddled with the font size a bit and made another proof.
That reduced the page count dramatically, but not enough to get the book to the size it can be printed and shipped within the range of pricing we planned for. And beyond this Kickstarter, we also have to look at all the folks who just couldn't be backers for one reason or another and who will pick up the book as a PoD physical book from DTRPG. We need that version to have reasonable costs as well.
That second bulk layout proof is currently in the hands of the Devs who are looking at alterations to the text to further reduce the page count. Once they pare it down, Maria and I will do another layout pass and move ahead towards our first real layout proof. That'll be where art will be positioned and sidebars made, and should be very close to what the actual book will look like. It's the most labor-intensive of the proofing stages for the layout designer.
Here are some more sneak peaks of illustrations from EX3:
Now, here's a message from Holden about a part of the book not affected by this whole proofing process:
Hello, everyone. The final pieces of art are showing up, layout is happening, and Exalted’s PDF release to you backers draws nigh. As we gear up to push this book out the door, I want to revisit one of the things we talked about during the Kickstarter: Martial Arts, and some of the changes they’ve undergone during development.
When we started developing Third Edition, we wanted to simplify the idea behind Martial Arts and use a holistic approach that emphasized that Martial Arts styles were rooted in schools and traditions across Creation. Thus, a mortal practitioner of Snake Style who Exalted as a Solar would find that his kung fu was suddenly as awesome as all his other aptitudes, as opposed to the old way of doing things where most of the styles in the setting were invented and practiced by a pool of 700 guys spread across the world yet somehow had schools and traditions anyway. This goal we accomplished to our satisfaction.
We also wanted to give Martial Arts styles additional depth with the inclusion of “techniques” – special maneuvers in each style that anyone could use, even mortal heroes. This excited a lot of people, including us—it sounded like an obviously good idea.
As it turns out… well, there’s a reason why all the backer previews start with “this is a preview of a work in progress and may not match the final product.” Unfortunately, techniques won’t be appearing in Exalted Third Edition. The more we iterated them, the more we realized that they sounded like a great idea, with only the small problem that they didn’t actually work. This was a result of several factors. First, in practice they were basically Charms, but Charms which couldn’t be balanced with mote costs, and instead had to rely on timing restrictions, secondary resource costs, and the like. This was easy to deal with at first, but got progressively harder and harder with each additional style. By the time all the corebook styles were done, we were dreading the thought of trying to pile in another 100+ of the things over the course of the edition.
Second, once they were in place, we discovered that they made the old styles like Snake and Tiger and Dreaming Pearl Courtesan look archaic, since their Charms had been constructed without techniques in mind. If Snake (for example) had some fancy technique attached to it, why didn’t it have Charms to enhance and work around that technique? We tried a new round of drafts that wove Charms around the new design space of the techniques, and while this was interesting, the resulting styles felt very complicated and bloated.
Third, martial arts styles have always been an easy content booster for Exalted because they add a lot of value with a relatively small wordcount footprint (historically, a Martial Arts style can be done, and done well, in one to two thousand words). The new styles not only gobbled up far more wordcount, they were much more difficult to write. Fourth, we realized that gambits (which you’ll get to see soon), which were invented halfway into the iterating of the core rules, accomplished much of what techniques were supposed to do but in a more flexible and easily-balanced package.
Finally, other balance issues that cropped up during playtesting, combined with getting more and more distance from working on previous editions, convinced us to adopt a Martial Arts model that was more straight-forward and intuitive for new players, rather than a complex solution based around problems from prior editions (many of which no longer applied because of underlying system changes). At that point, we realized that not only did we not need techniques, but that they had become a problem rather than an asset for the game.
So we cut them. Everyone had something cool in their imagination when they heard about techniques—including us—but imagining a thing working is, sadly, not the same as actually making it work.
We apologize for any disappointment this may create, but we’d rather lay this design shift out for you now, rather than waiting until the book drops. The good news is, sans techniques, Third Edition does have martial arts that are stylish, available to all characters, effective (a Solar martial artist is not giving up power for coolness any more), affordable, well-rooted in the setting, and fun to use. This was our ultimate goal at the end of the day, not reaching that point by any one particular road.
As always, thanks so much for your support and patience!