TLDR version: Right now the text, after a thorough review by the Devs, is with Maria as she works her magic with the layout.
The longer version: To clarify this whole preliminary layout process, the first thing to remember is that Maria is creating a new overall visual design for EX3. There will no doubt be some connections to the previous editions, but because she is coming to this fresh, with her own years of experience in visual design, I am trying to give her a lot of room to create something that is both right for Exalted and new.
The first step was the rough "word count" layout pass that was just completed. Basically, what Maria did last time with the layout was to make a very basic format and then insert the text into that to give a basic idea of chapters and word count. She modified that basic format a bit based on that document and we sent the text back to the Devs so that they could tighten up parts and my understanding from Holden is that they took the opportunity to really review how they wrote certain sections and tighten those up. And no, I do not know what was cut and if any of those chunks were significant enough to use elsewhere later.
Once the Devs sent the text back, we needed to go back and forth with a new rough layout in order to be sure that the text she was using was absolutely the last version. She does not want to be midway through 600+ (and +) pages and find out she needs to rip out part and redo it. Now that that is confirmed, she is doing the actual first real layout phase as everything she decides to do will be using the actual text that should show up in the PDF and books. This is the hardest phase as the real design decisions are made here.
And like I mentioned above: Maria is designing this new EX3 layout format differently than any before it, but it is still using the two column format on an 81/2 x 11 page as a base, so while she has the freedom to bring her own design sensibilities in, she's not going to be presenting a layout that is alien to Exalted or RPGs. It should have a fresh look, and in parts present some surprises, but not cure the common cold.
And because some backers were concerned about how our Stretch Goal collaboration with the Anathema online dice roller team was going, here's the word direct from them:
This is Urs from Anathema.
There was some discontent over the lack of news lately, way over in another thread.
In this post, I'll try to remedy the situation and give you some insight into our collaboration with Onyx Path as well as our progress. Please understand that I can't go into details; I am NDAed and can only speak about the general outline.
Our main contact in the writing team is Holden. We are in close contact with him, meaning: unmoderated, direct, private messages.
Some weeks ago, he sent us a pre-release version of the rules, more than enough to build Anathema with.
He answers any questions we have clearly and quickly, and generally does his best to keep us in the loop.
Just to make it clear, Onyx Path is not responsible for our doings, errors or lapses, as we are not beholden to them. We did not ask for money, and will receive none. In fact, we - as a team - explictly decided not to make this a paid project, so we never had to discuss this with OP.
Rules in hand, we obviously have a lot of work to do, reading as well as coding.
Generally speaking, work is progressing orderly. We are working in a hidden repository, that's why even the tech-savvy among you didn't see any updates on GitHub for ages. Progress could be better, though, since our time and energy are not as plenty as they were back in 2013, when we first signed up for this.
I have seen speculation that we only need to update the Charms - this is decidedly not the case, the changes required are much more extensive: There are assumptions in Anathema that just don't hold any longer, and we still need to figure out how to deal with major points.
However, all of the minor changes and additions are done by now. With a version I have running on my desktop this very moment, I could probably adopt more than eighty percent of the Exalts I or my group have played in the past; dealing with some rough edges manually.
All of this said, we can't promise to have a fully-fledged version the moment the PDF goes live - just as I said back in September.
Also, OP and the Anathema team have yet to speak about content inclusion beyond the usual - we have left this issue open so far, because it is the least of our concerns.
Finally, please bear in mind that Rich knows exactly as much about our work as you do, so he just couldn't give you more details.
I hope this clears matters up somewhat.
Thanks for your patience, we're getting so close now!
I just finished sending out messages with links for the EX3 Fiction Anthology: Tales From the Age of Sorrows PDF you enabled us to create via the Stretch Goals. Thanks so much!
Here's a couple of steps to follow if you are having trouble with the message containing the EX3 Fiction Anthology PDF links:
1) Only backers who pledged to Reward Tiers that contain a copy of the EX3 PDF also get the EX3 Fiction Anthology PDF as a stretch goal reward.
2) If you can't find the link message, look through all your KS messages in the thread for the link message and determine that no such messages are in any threads from Kickstarter, or DriveThruRPG, or Onyx Path. Please check your Spam filters. Please make sure you are looking at the email account on record with Kickstarter, and that you have checked your KS backer page on their website for a message. Please do all these things before messaging me, because I'm going to ask you to check those things first anyway.
3) Also, if you have technical issues with the link that are problems with downloading from the DriveThruRPG site, please contact their customer service before you message me. Most of the time, they are the only ones who can solve download issues, and they are experienced and great at it.
But if those things don't help, please contact me by clicking that link under my picture and we'll get things sorted out!
And here are some thoughts from Holden on how the EX3 Fiction Anthology is very much inspired by EX3:
"EX3 isn't about adherence to minutiae, but rather about new ideas and following sources of inspiration to tell exciting and interesting stories. This is a book of stories inspired by a fresh beginning for Exalted. Don't sweat little details. Details always tighten as an edition progresses, anyway, for better or worse. Right now, enjoy the talented and evocative writing these authors have produced at the launch of the edition, when the horizon is wide open to explore and investigate, and see where it leads your creativity for your own games. Seeing Exalted through lots of eyes is awesome and a lock-step vision kinda defeats the point of this anthology anyway."
Also, along the same lines, the visual design of the book is squarely in both previous editions and inspired by the current visual design of EX3. But it is not the actual visual design.
The text for EX3 is with the Devs right now and they continue to tweak it in preparation for layout. Art Director Maria Cabardo is getting in the last of the art we requested be fixed for various reasons, and no, we are not going to hold up the backer PDF for any late art. She had one artist started with creating designs for chapter borders, but at the last minute they quit the project, so she is working with a new artist.
Both EX3 Novels are being worked on, and the EX3 Music Suites continue to be composed. Once the EX3 text is back in layout we expect the Dev team to be able to get back to the Quickstart and other associated KS projects.
Also, as I've mentioned before, we now have an Onyx Path Mailing List that you can sign up for on the Onyx Path website. http://theonyxpath.com/ A lot of backers have asked us for this so they can be alerted to our new Kickstarters, or because they want to keep an eye on Exalted 3rd's progress on a weekly basis. By signing up we will email you alerts for upcoming and running Kickstarters, PDF and PoD releases, and other news and announcements. Each week we'll email you the Monday Meeting Notes blog that contains our weekly project updates so you can see how your favorite games including EX3 are progressing. Sign up and start getting those little email gifts of knowledge and love!
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
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!
The edited text for EX3 is now completely in layout. Art Director Maria Cabardo still is delivering a piece of art every couple of days, and she is also starting to do what we call "bulk layout". That is, she is 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. It'll only be a rough ballpark, but that will give us an idea of where we stand. Do we need sections removed, do we need to increase or decrease font size? These are the decisions we are looking at.
Because this is Maria's first book design work on an Exalted book, and because it is for the new look we want to go with the new EX3 edition, we still can't say how long this process will take. For the best quality, she needs to be able to play with the format, and myself and the devs need to be able to insure that any of her directions feel right for Exalted as a whole and EX3 in particular. This may happen very smoothly or we may have some false starts, we'll just have to see as she works on it.
Now that we are at this stage, I'll be talking with the devs in some detail to go over the other aspects of the Deluxe Exalted 3rd Edition KS, like the unique Charms and such, and nailing down how those Rewards will roll out to all of you.
And, I'll be at Mid Winter Con in Milwaukee if any of you are going or are in the area, and I'd love to chat if you're there.
Thanks, and here are a few pieces of finished art for your enjoyment:
Holden says: "Lea finished. The book is out of editing and back in my hands. I'm going through, reviewing Lea's edits and implementing them into the master draft. This process is finished for the Introduction and Chapter One, am on Chapter Two right now. I am aiming to have the complete finished manuscript ready for you and Maria this week.
Holy shit. Three years. This beast is finally about to be out of our hands at last.
(Also I am now riding him mercilessly about getting the Quickstart finished.)"
Maria Cabardo and I are finishing up reviewing final pieces as they pass through our hands and are approved by CCP. Only a few remain to get to finished state at this point including some of the full page pieces. There are a few pieces we need the completed text for so we can do the design thing we want to do with the art working the way we need it to in terms of working with the text.
Once Holden passes the text to us, Maria will start combining text and design ideas to create the page design format, and the art will also factor in there. Because this is a new design, with a new art director/designer, we will be going back and forth a bit to perfect it, so estimates on how long such a process will take are still not possible. When the format is settled and Maria gets a few chapters under her belt, we'll be able to take a stab at how long the rest of the chapters will take to lay out.
Matt Forbeck's EX3 Novel is being written and the EX3 Anthology is in second drafts with the writers. Composer James Semple (he created the music we used in the KS video) and I talked and he is working on new material finally for the EX3 Music Suites. Writing is being done on the EX3 Quickstart (note Holden's comment about that above).
And now, here are the finals of the art from Melissa Uran:
We posted her sketches, and then the inked versions last Update, and now Mel has handed in her finished pieces. These are still before we hae tweak the colors for printing, so a couple are a little darker here than they will be in the book. I'll include the art notes text here as well so that everybody can follow along even if you missed the earlier Updates.
1- The Wyld and the Fair Folk (Horizontal half-page illustration, full color) The setting is a forest of gigantic blossoms. The centerpiece of the picture is a classic lord of the Fair Folk—a graceful, wicked faerie prince, garbed in all the colors of the forest and wielding an elegant, otherworldly bow of wood and pearl. Lesser fae are unfolding from the blossoms around him—in addition to 'fae' traits such as pointed ears, these should have visual markers reminiscent of Hindu demons—claws, fangs, long arms, bulging eyes, striped hides, that sort of thing. They're clearly a different, and lesser, sort of creature than the Fair Folk noble, only distantly related at best. In the corner of the shot, a deer-woman cowers in the shadow of the blossoms: the noble's sport. Please go crazy with the colors here-- we want this picture to really pop off the page, to give an impression of hyperreality through visual saturation in the fantastic landscape.
2- Righteous Eye (Vertical character illustration, roughly half-page sized, full color) This is a character image, no background. Righteous Eye is sleek and muscular, powered by the wind and shadows, moves like a blur, never loses his footing, no matter how slick the rooftop. He stands with his weapon, wearing a black hood and armless vest. One of his arms is bare save for an archer’s glove. His left arm has a cool orichalcum armor-sheathe going all the way down to cover the hand—it doesn’t cover his shoulder. The sheath has a burning eye motif repeated across it. He’s wearing a hide belt with orichalcum segments and an orichalcum buckle; the buckle is a blazing sun with an eye in the center. He’s wearing black tights, along with black and white boots with orichalcum studs on the shins. Righteous Eye is a young black man, in his early 20s, with hard eyes and his jaw is strong but not thick—he has the look of a raptor. He’s bald, although his hood is up so this feature can’t be seen. His face is scarred diagonally on the right side, from his upper lip down over his chin and down his neck; the scar widens as it goes, due to being slashed at some point. It’s an anime-ish scar, so it makes him look cool rather than disfigured. The hood has a white eye on it, over Righteous Eye’s forehead. His powerbow, Windscythe, is an orichalcum short bow with bladed wings that can be used to slash enemies as well as to fire arrows.
3- Rolling the Dice (Vertical half-page illustration, full color) Draw a seedy speakeasy in the bad part of a big city. In the foreground are several rough-looking characters sitting at a table, gambling with a variety of different-sided dice. They’re suspiciously glancing up from their game, toward the door of the establishment. The door is open, and two strangers are standing in it—Solar Exalteds have arrived at this den of thieves, looking over the room with a stern and measuring eye. Use the backer descriptions for Zan the Invincible and Peleps (Captain Zhui the Traveller) Perhaps one of the rogues at the table is their quarry.
4- Naval Combat (Horizontal half-page illustration, full color) This illustration depicts a pitched naval battle near a tropical island. In the foreground, a Solar Exalted is rallying the crew to prepare to repel boarders. The ship is being boarded by a trireme whose sails depict the symbol of House Peleps; the marines surging over the rail are clad in crimson buff jackets. It’s clear that the battle has been going on for a while, before ending in this boarding action—the trireme has taken some damage, and there are arrows sticking out of various portions of the Solar’s vessel. Use the backer description for Jareth.
We did not get an inked version of this yet.
5- Unsurpassed Hearing and Touch Discipline (Vertical half-page illustration, full color) This is a split illustration. One half of it depicts two wealthy characters (perhaps merchants, perhaps Dragon-Blooded Dynasts?) in opulent surroundings engaging in some form of serious planning session, conspiracy, or meeting. A hair-thin wire has been tied around a nearby object, and trails out of an open window. The second half of the picture depicts a Solar Exalted character sitting cross-legged in a dark attic somewhere nearby, with the wire running into the attic and laying across her fingertips, listening in on the conversation through vibrations conveyed down the wire with her impossibly keen sense of touch. The Solar’s garb resembles that of a spy, assassin, or similarly shady sort of character.
6- Ten Magistrate Eyes (Horizontal half-page illustration, full color) “Attuning herself to the ambient Essence of the world, the Solar can see the order of and links between objects. This Charm supplements a case scene action, making that action infallible, and reducing the time it takes to just seconds. Even if the Exalt’s Perception + Investigation roll turns up no successes, she gains at least one clue to her investigation. For each additional success, the Storyteller describes the Solar’s mind racing from clue to clue, making logical connections that would be impossible for most people, and describing how those connections work to advance the Solar’s inquest. Such clues should provide the player with information that constitutes leads to characters, places, and events that will automatically trigger Watchman’s Infallible Eye when encountered. The Solar can also automatically tell if there has been an attempt to conceal evidence.” This is an illustration of a crime scene—a well-appointed room in a manor. A bloody body lies on the floor, the window is shut, and there is a well-built desk on the far side of the room, one of its doors very slightly ajar. In the back of the room stands a Solar Exalted investigator, using the backer description for Diving Salmon. Her Twilight Caste Mark burns on her brow, and her eyes are closed in concentration. The illustration should depict hazy phantom forms, representing his reconstruction of the crime scene, overlain on top of the actual scene—imposed over the closed window, a hooded figure coming in through the window; that same hooded figure should be shown standing over the corpse, stabbing his victim in the chest at an angle congruent with where the body fell; and on the far side of the room, the hooded man’s ghostly form can be seen rifling through the drawer that he left slightly ajar.
7- Blurred Form Style (Horizontal half-page illustration, full color) This is a cover of the illustration on page 202 of the First Edition Exalted core book, by Mel Uran.
8- White Reaper Style: Enemies Like Grass (Horizontal half-page illustration, full color) A nighttime illustration, set in the countryside of a chill frontier land. A Lunar Exalt armed with a large magical scythe tears through a late-night patrol of Realm legionnaires. The legionnaires are wearing heavy armor, crimson-lacquered, and are armed with shields and spears, save for one who carries a lantern. For the Lunar use the backer description for Tyrell. He’s surrounded by a silver-white nimbus of power as he tears through the patrol, having ambushed it from the darkness; silver-white slashes, drawn in the same fashion as her nimbus, can be seen in several places in the illustration, giving the impression that he’s striking everywhere faster than the eye can see, scything down the legionnaires. His actual scythe (made of an elegantly-lined, mystical silver) is tearing through the lantern and the legionnaire holding it, splashing flames across the piece and providing the principle illumination in the scene.
Hope you've enjoyed watching the evolution of Mel's pieces, and I'll be posting some more finishes from other artists next Update!