The following is a summarized list of major notable mechanics changes in Exalted Third Edition, intended to give an idea of the scope of the edition’s rules overhaul. It is not intended to be exhaustive or all-inclusive — it does not, for example, mention that the Defend Other action is returning with only slight tweaks.
- Basic task resolution remains a function of combining Attribute + Ability scores with modifiers, rolling them to accumulate successes, and comparing the gathered successes to an action’s difficulty. Virtually all system functions are modelled with either a simple Attribute + Ability vs difficulty roll, or by an extended or opposed roll.
- In the case of opposed rolls which result in a tie, the player with the better stunt wins.
- Backgrounds are gone. They have been replaced by Merits. Merits are similar to Backgrounds, but are not required to be ranked from 1 to 5 dots, and in addition to the function of old Backgrounds, Merits may be presented as ‘perks’ such as a lightning-fast sword draw, a mutation, or the mastery of various languages.
- Combat proceeds in rounds, rather than using ticks.
- Combat is based on attempting to seize control of the momentum of a fight, and using that advantage to strike a decisive blow. Most attacks aren’t aimed at the opponent’s Health Track, but instead grant the character greater control of the fight’s tempo. Picking the right time to attempt a killing blow is key to success in Third Edition battles.
- Characters may only make one attack per round without Charms, in order to make combat resolve much more quickly than in previous editions.
- Rare multi-attack Charms exist, but have been meticulously examined and balanced. No multiattack Charm can be ‘spammed,’ to avoid slowing down combat.
- There is no longer a separate Mass Combat system. Groups of similar, ‘extra’ combatants are abstracted into battle groups, which can fight in the same combat system as everything else. A battle group may represent anything from a dozen ninja assassins to a thousand of the Realm’s elite heavy infantry.
- Essence replenishment is no longer dependent on stunts. Essence instead returns at a fixed rate of 5 motes per round in combat, and at a slower rate outside of combat.
- Willpower can no longer be regained by performing stunts, making it a much more precious resource than in previous editions.
- There are means by which characters can gain up to 10 points of Willpower, even if they have a lower Willpower rating.
- In addition to gaining experience points at the end of each session, players will have limited opportunities each session to earn “Solar XP.” Solar XP can be spent on Merits, sorcery, Martial Arts, Attributes, Abilities, and Evocations.
Charms and Magic
- Characters need not spend Willpower to use more than one Charm in the course of a single round.
- Solar Exalted gain a free Excellency in each of their Caste and Favored Abilities, provided that they possess at least a single dot of that Ability. As soon as they buy a single Charm for any nonfavored Ability, they also gain an Excellency linked to that Ability.
- Martial arts styles now contain Techniques in addition to Charms. All characters, including mortal heroes, can use Techniques. Techniques can be quite powerful, but often have particular tactical requirements to make use of them.
- Terrestrial and Celestial Martial Arts are no longer distinct game concepts. Instead, what were formerly known as “supernatural martial arts styles” are simply martial arts styles. A mortal can learn Snake style, Tiger style, Celestial Monkey style, and so forth. If she Exalts, then her mastery of martial arts becomes supernaturally potent, in the same way her other skills do.
- Certain Martial Arts Charms may be modified when practised by Dragon-Blooded, to adjust their power level appropriately.
- Exalted Third Edition does not feature a social combat system. Instead it uses social influence mechanics, with a focus on character interaction, understanding the motives of other characters, and gaining trust or using appropriate leverage to influence others.
- Exalted Third Edition characters do not have Motivations. Instead, Intimacies have been expanded to be much broader and more nuanced tools for fleshing out characters.
- Intimacies may be “ties” or “principles.” A tie is an Intimacy describing the character’s feelings toward a person or place, such as “I love Prince Diamond” or “I hate the Mask of Winters.” A principle may be any concept that is important to the character, such as “I cannot abide cruelty,” “My word is my bond,” or “I don’t care what I have to do to keep my homeland safe.”
- Intimacies vary in intensity, and may be Minor, Major, or Defining.
- Social influence actions may attempt to modify a character’s Intimacies, or may attempt to convince characters to do things you want them to do. Intimacies are key to the success, failure, and possibility of such actions being attempted at all.
- Social influence actions may be used during combat.
- Exalted Third Edition presents two options for making NPCs: the traditional way (presenting NPCs as fully-realized characters with traits as robust as a player character), or as Quick Characters (QCs). Our intent is that characters you do not expect to play a major role in the story should be represented as QCs, while important, recurring NPCs be given full stats, but Storytellers are free to use QCs as heavily or as little as they like.
- Quick Characters have greatly abstracted traits. Rather than a full listing of Attributes and Abilities, a Sijanese investigator might have only a few simple traits such as “Search for evidence (7 dice)” and “Question suspects (6 dice).” An easy guide is provided for constructing QCs, allowing Storytellers to simply eyeball the desired level of competence for a QC and plug in appropriate numbers in a few minutes.
- Weapon traits have been greatly simplified. Each mundane weapon is now a Light, Medium, or Heavy weapon, with weapon nuance provided by tags. All light weapons, for example, have identical accuracy, damage, and defense ratings. A dagger and a whip, for example, would both be light weapons. The dagger’s tags might enable attacks which help it slip through an opponent’s armor, however, while the whip’s tags make it better at entangling and disarming opponents.
- Magical weapons and armor provide superior traits to mundane equipment, but also provide a new form of magic known as Evocations. Evocations are Charms drawn from the rapport between a hero and his storied mystic panoply, and can be extremely powerful. Solars are the undisputed masters of Evocations among the Exalted.