UnCon Chat: Book of Exalted Deeds
Featuring Christopher Perkins and Darrin Drader

wizo_dabus: Come one, come all! Chris Perkins and Darrin Drader are here to discuss their upcoming book, the Book of Exalted Deeds. First of all, Chris and Darrin, do you have any opening words?

Chris Perkins: Just a quick overview. The Book of Exalted Deeds (releasing next month) is the 224-page antithesis of the Book of Vile Darkness. It's full of good stuff.

Darrin Drader: I'm happy to be here and glad to see everyone taking an interest.

jaerc: What can we expect in the way of new spells?

Chris: The book includes roughly the same number of spells as Book of Vile Darkness. Some of the spells are baleful (such as phoenix fire), while others are beneficial.

Darrin: You will see a number of new spells. Many are written specifically to deal with some of the Book of Vile Darkness spells while others are more unique. Other new spells include armageddon, cry of Ysgard, and yoke of mercy.

xaxor: Will this be another mature book as was the Book of Vile Darkness? If so, why?

Chris: It deals with mature subject matter (sacrifice, for instance) and the ramifications of certain types of actions and conduct. It also has some naughty imagery. For instance, there's a picture of a paladin being tempted by a pair of succubi. It's all in good taste, mind you.

Darrin: It deals with morality in the D&D universe in a very frank way.

jheyson_of_sarrius: What new races and classes have been created?

Darrin: There are a number of new monsters that can be used in a similar way to Savage Species. There will be new archons, and other good-aligned beings.

Chris: The book does include a deva planar ally named Evansheer who likes strangling demons with her spiked chain. On the topic of devas, and so on, we allow some of the angels, archons, and other good creatures as heroes. The book also has a bunch of prestige classes for characters who want to really kick evil butt.

emperorxan: Given that the various Lords of the layers and all were featured in Book of Vile Darkness, will there be a similar mirror concerning the "angelic choruses" (for lack of another term) like Dante's "Paradise" described?

Chris: We plan to support the book with a series of articles in Dragon Magazine expanding the monstrous character class options. We have a chapter titled Celestial Paragons, which details the beneficent rules of the Upper Planes and presents some of their followers (all of which can be summoned as planar allies). The art for those guys is glorious.

Darrin: I think James Wyatt wrote up the majority of the paragons. There's some very cool stuff in that chapter.

Chris: James wrote up most of the paragons, and I did the planar allies. Lots of stats!

jaerc: Will more of the mysteries of Celestia be revealed?

Chris: We don't delve too much into history, since we wanted the book to include mostly stuff the heroes can use in the game. However, we talk about some of Celestia's splendors.

bludgeon: I run a Ravenloft game. Could this book be of any use to it?

Darrin: Sure, it could be. We have a prestige class that you can take only after you have died.

Chris: I think a lot of the spells, and even a few of the prestige classes, work nicely in campaigns where the heroes are fighting truly horrific evils. So, yes. The Risen Martyr prestige class is pretty darn cool.

wizo_paradox: What part of the book was the toughest to write?

Darrin: Spells! I think that between the original draft and the final, I ended up rewriting the spells three times. I'm pleased with them in their final form.

Chris: The first chapter, which provides an overview of "What It Means To Be Good," was a challenge for James. The spells were the hardest from a technical, game-balance standpoint. The hardest part for me was coming up with new and interesting feats that weren't too complicated.

Darrin: Yeah, feats are tough.

xaxor: Is there any artwork by Rebecca Guay?

Chris: Yes, she did a few pieces for us.

mlmartin: What campaign styles and settings will this book work best with? For example, how well would it work in a Dragonlance game?

Darrin: I think it will work fine with every campaign setting we have published. Since the focus is on providing new and interesting ways of combating evil, you can use it in virtually any setting. Dragonlance itself varies a lot because of the different periods of time you can set your game in. The Disciple of Bahamut could be useful in Dragonlance.

Chris: This is a core D&D book, so it'll have elements that can be imported into any D&D campaign setting. I think it depends on what sort of Dragonlance campaign you're running, but certainly you'll find some of the feats, spells, and magic items useful! Book of Exalted Deeds has a lot of new intelligent weapons, as well as special materials for armor and weapons. I can see some of these being easily imported into specific campaign settings.

baloo: Will the new celestials you mentioned be brought in from Planescape? I kind of liked the full spectrum of celestials there.

Chris: We've picked up most of the outstanding celestials and created a few new ones. Certainly, we took in a bunch of Planescape refugees. The rhek is mine.

Darrin: I focused on new creatures that had not appeared before in any edition. The Owl Archon is one of mine.

emperorxan: Does the book have anything concerning the "dangers" of how being too good becomes detrimental to others, even if it's a subtle issue?

Darrin: There is a section in the beginning of the book that defines morality in D&D. Part of that does include the problems that occur when you become overzealous. That will probably become one of the most interesting parts of the book because it will finally solve a lot of the issues people run into with paladins.

Chris: The beginning of the book offers some new takes on good characters, as well, including converted monsters and the ascetic (a character who has taken a vow of poverty).

Darrin: There's a section on exalted characters that refers back to all of the core classes in D&D.

jaerc: Can you tell us a bit about the new difficult-to-make feats?

Darrin: This is totally Chris's department here. I avoid designing feats whenever possible.

Chris: Feats really need to be playtested. It's hard to balance them on the fly. We have a feat called Touch of Golden Ice, which monks can use to afflict evil creatures with a horrible ravage (similar to a disease). We also tried to create new feats for all the core classes. We also have a new class of feats, called the exalted feat. Not just anyone can take exalted feats -- you have to meet some criteria. Exalted feats are generally more powerful as a consequence. They're the counterparts to vile feats.

wizo_paradox: Now that we've got mature books on good and evil, are you guys planning on doing one on neutrality?

Chris: It's not on our current schedule, although it would be an interesting parallel to the old PlanescapePlanes of Conflict idea.

Darrin: I think that would make an interesting book. Moral ambiguity! Lots of fun!

wizo_blue: I read the book has tips on running heroic campaigns. Can you expand on that please?

Chris: The book talks about integrating exalted characters into the campaign and setting up challenges worthy of them, about the types of quests that motivate the truly exalted character and possible rewards for success. It also presents a wealth of celestial NPCs who can crop up in the course of a campaign.

Darrin: The book really goes into what happens when you stray from the path of good. The campaign options are really there for people who want to play good characters.

jaerc: Kind of like the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) Awards JD Wiker talked about last night?

Darrin: I missed that chat, so I'm not sure I can help on this one. In glancing at them, I would say the feats are all of those -- and worthwhile.

bludgeon: Will there be all good cultures and such like in the Book of Vile Darkness?

Darrin: There's a section on crime and punishment, but I'm not sure that we talk specifically about all-good cultures.

istovahn: Have you put the Regalia of Good in the Book of Exalted Deeds in answer to Book of Vile Darkness' regalia of evil?

Chris: Yes.

emperorxan: I'm a really big Planescape fan, so I would like to know how much of that setting was an influence and does this book have any of that edgy flavor in its take on the subject matter?

Chris: Certainly, we've preserved the notion that certain celestial beings look at good differently. The archons have a different take than the eladrin, for example. That idea was introduced in Planescape. We also have some very butch celestials in this book. Rough around the edges, you might say. I, too, am a big Planescape fan. I certainly liked the way it gave the Upper Planes personality. We tried to preserve that.

Darrin: I would say that it has some influence due to the inclusion of the paragons and the outsiders found within. I wouldn't say that it was our main focus, but we tried to include it as a consideration wherever it was appropriate.

filladdar: I could understand why the Book of Vile Darkness had a mature audiences only thing, but why the Book of Exalted Deeds? Isn't it all about good stuff?

Chris: It's hard to talk about great good without relating it in some way to great evil. Certainly, this book is less offensive in some respects.

Darrin: We recognize that some will take offense because of that definition, especially where the real world is concerned.

jaerc: Are there any new planes of good?

Darrin: I'm not familiar with the inclusion of any. We tried to design in accordance with the established cosmology.

Chris: Not covered in this book. We stuck to the D&D core cosmology (and really only deal with it in the Celestial Paragons chapter). Most of this book is about good characters and the weapons they need to fight terrible evil.

xaxor: Is there any material about the upper planes?

Darrin: Only in that we help populate them with paragons and some new creatures. The planes are certainly an important part of the D&D game.

Chris: No, but we are currently working on a book that does tie in somewhat to Manual of the Planes.

bludgeon: Which was more challenging, the Book of Vile Darkness or this project?

Darrin: Monte Cook wrote the Book of Vile Darkness, so I can't really address that. I suppose this may have been easier since the Book of Vile Darkness was already there when we were writing this.

Chris: I'd say Book of Exalted Deeds was harder to write, because it's harder to make "good" stuff sexy. Monte had to come up with a format, which we mirrored.

emperorxan: Since I've had this argument in real life, did you address the "war" question and how good beings can initiate or participate in various types of wars?

Chris: We do discuss the justification of war and sacrifice.

boppana:Book of Vile Darkness had a lot of interesting new domains. What new domains will be in the Book of Exalted Deeds?

Darrin: Pleasure, wrath, joy, glory, celestial, community, endurance are some that we talk about.

emperorxan: Since paladins don't necessarily need to worship a deity to gain their powers if they ascribe to some Lawful Good belief, is that taken into consideration for Book of Exalted Deeds?

Chris: Yes.

emperorxan: Do any of the new rules in the book require a paladin to have a god?

Chris: No.

jaerc: Will there be "orders" of various celestials as there were for the nine lords in Book of Vile Darkness?

Chris: The celestial paragons do form orders, but rather than present orders like Book of Vile Darkness, we gave the paragons some followers who could be summoned as planar allies. That saves the players and DMs a lot of work, believe me! The characters in my campaigns like summoning planar allies to help him. Talisid's greater planar ally is a celestial treant druid with a snake animal companion.

filladdar: Are there things similar to the corrupt and vile spells in the Book of Vile Darkness?

Chris: Yes, we have sanctified spells in Book of Exalted Deeds. They deal ability damage to the caster but have great effects.

Darrin: They are a little on the powerful side, which is why the sacrifice is necessary. One of the things that I snuck into the book is that I introduced a method to redeem usually evil creatures. You will now be able to redeem a devil or a red dragon. I think it opens up a lot of roleplaying possibilities.

wizo_dabus: Okay, well our time is up. Chris and Darrin, we thank you immensely for coming tonight and chatting with us! Do you have any closing words?

Chris: Turns out that being good can be really, really, really cool! Thank you everyone! Remember: October is the month to BE GOOD.

Darrin: Thanks, everyone, and I hope you enjoy the book!

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