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Review – Exalted 2.5 (Errata)

March 27, 2012

Recently, a couple of weeks previous, White Wolf’s Errata Team Prime released a massive, sweeping errata to the Exalted game, focusing mainly on combat (and specifically the perfect defensive paradigm) and the Sidereal Charmset. The changes included errata to many, if not most, of the combat Charms of every Exalt type, mote regeneration, Combos, stunting, soak, weapon statistics, and more. In sum, this errata has been colloquially called “Exalted 2.5” by both forumites and freelancers, in parody of D&D 2.5. However, unlike the aforementioned, Exalted 2.5 is a part of the Scroll of Errata, available for free from DriveThruRPG. Now that I’ve had a little time to chew on it, let me share my opinions.

It’s fantastic. As a concept, 2.5 has been a long time coming, and fans have been eagerly awaiting its changes for at least a year. The changes are numerous, far too numerous to list here, but the errata is free, so if you care at all, I’d recommend picking it up. Comprehensively, it breaks down the pre-existing combat paradigm, wherein so-called “paranoia combat” ran rampant. Perfect defenses were employed against almost every attack, incentivizing a low-cost, high-accuracy build that dominated the mote-attrition battles that rapidly equated clever and dynamic attacks with hemorrhaging motes.

In addition, it completely revitalizes Sidereal Exalted, which since their inception in second edition have been plagued by mechanical inconsistencies or even complete functional failure due to their copy-pasted nature from first edition. Many of their Charms did not do what they were intended to, if they worked at all, and those that did were often either trivial to resist or completely indomitable. The errata has combed through the entire Sidereal Charmset, bringing them up to speed with the other Celestial Exalted and making them not only functional, but also, by all appearances, fun to play.

The most important change, to my mind, is the abolition of both experience and Willpower costs for the Combo system. Use of multiple Charms in a single action still requires players to follow a somewhat Byzantine series of arcane rules, but it is no longer accompanied by a tax on resources that could otherwise be spent having fun; a so-called “fun tax.” Combos are produced on the fly and cost nothing, making dynamic and interesting combinations of Charm activations no longer feel like a punishment. One of my friends once commented that, whenever he played Exalted, he felt like an Olympic athlete with both arms and one leg tied behind his back: he had nearly unlimited potential, but could never actually do anything with it. Now, Orrin, you can.

There are a few problems with the new errata. Some of the clarifications about equipment bonuses stacking are… well, anything but clear. There were plenty of Charms that got missed, simply because there are so many Charms. And some of the upgrades and errata to Sidereals leave splats like Abyssals and Lunars feeling… well, a little lackluster. Nevertheless, I feel the progress and the corrections made more than outweigh the problems.

I do recommend the errata to anyone who plays consistently, not only because it is the official edit to the core rules (and most supplements), but also because it actually makes the game more fun. This is a concept that shouldn’t have taken as long as it did for game companies to figure out.

As part of the 2.5 shift, I am going to be going back through my old posts and updating them as best I can to be compatible with the 2.5 rules. I’m no freelancer, so I have no doubt that my Charms will suffer in comparison to canonical material, but I will do my best. I won’t be reposting them to the front page… simply a quiet edit behind the scenes. If you note some of your favorite Charms have changed, that’s most likely why.

This brings me to my only real complaint about 2.5… there are no plans to reprint the core rulebook to incorporate these changes. In fact, there are no plans to reprint any of the numerous sourcebooks that would so desperately benefit from an incorporation of the errata, rather than suffering from having to cross-reference yet another tome (roughly the same size as the core book) to use the rules. Yes, the irony is not lost on me. When D&D 2.5 was released I lambasted it for charging me more money for a reprint of a game I’d already bought, and now I’m bitching that Exalted didn’t do that, and doesn’t plan to. Nevertheless, I feel a reprinted Exalted system would benefit tremendously from incorporated errata, and will continue to campaign for it as best I can.

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10 comments

  1. My gaming group plans to test out the changes shortly. I am looking forward to it.

    P.S.: I think you mean D&D 3.5, not 2.5.


    • Thank you!

      There was, in fact, a D&D 2.5 back in the days of Advanced D&D, which fits equally well. However, I’ll grant 3.5 was just as guilty.


  2. The Sidereal Errata was the high point of 2.5 for me. Ease of play due to Combo erasure was a big deal, but allowing an entire Exalt type to be playable made me positively giddy.

    Not all of the balance changes were positive, but having playtested briefly I at least feel like the game is better even for non-Sidereals.


  3. I actually dislike the removal of combos. Designing special displays for each combo (and having to pay to use them) just made you feel cooler. True, you can still do it, but I bet most people won’t. They should have lowered the cost without eliminating it. It made too many cool mechanics obsolete.


    • In my many years of playing, I’ve only seen people make Combos a handful of times, but the number of times I’ve heard people claim they WOULD have made Combos if it didn’t cost them precious XP can’t be rationally expressed by mundane numbers. I think that, if people are discouraged from making signature attacks because it’s too unstructured, then they really don’t want them to start with, and other players who DO want them shouldn’t be penalized for that.


      • I’ve seen people buy combos many, many times. Rarely have I seen them go to the trouble of spelling out the special display and name and such.


      • So, I guess removing the Combo system doesn’t hurt those players, since they weren’t making displays/names anyway.


  4. Yeah… this errata was bullshit. It’s terrible and, upon thorough playtesting, made matters MUCH worse.


    • That’s not as constructive a comment as I’d hoped to see, but let’s go with it. I have been playing with the errata in two different groups since it came out, and have seen nothing but improvements. Combat is quicker and less lethal, Sidereals are appealing and functional, and in general everyone I’ve played with has seen nothing but an increase in fun from it. What aspects have you encountered that made it “bullshit”?



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