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Exalted for Dummies – The Fair Folk

November 5, 2010

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done one of these posts, so I figured it would be a good time to get back into the original purpose of this website: informing and educating my reader base about various aspects of Exalted.  Today, I’m going to break down the Fair Folk for you, dear reader, because, while their mechanics are a little awkward, the concept of the Fair Folk is one of the neatest things in Exalted.  They manage to draw from a variety of intriguing mythologies while at the same time making the Fae their own, unique creatures.

I’ve already talked about the Wyld, the literal Chaos from whence all things originally sprung (probably).  It rings Creation, and continues to generate all manner of oddities, some of which spill into Creation proper.  Most of those are behemoths and mutants, things easily dealt with by the Lunars who live at Creation’s fringes, but deeper into the Wyld, one can find proper Fair Folk.  These are beings made not merely by the Wyld, but of it, creatures of pure chaos and potential.  Because of their very nature, any sweeping generalizations about them are impossible to make accurately, but I will do what I can to narrow down that field.

All Fair Folk are, at the heart of themselves, nothing more than feeding maws, opened around what they call Graces.  These Graces (corresponding loosely to the four Virtues and Willpower) are the core of a Fair Folk’s being, the source of their power.  The Graces measure and limit the Fair Folk’s power and powers, but within those limitations (and especially within the Wyld), they have a great deal of flexibility.  Perhaps in some future installment I will go into some depth regarding the Graces, but for now, simply remember that they are the measure of a Fair Folk’s ability as well as personality and role, insofar as those things are stable.

Generally speaking, Fair Folk can be broken down into two categories: Shaped and Unshaped.  The Shaped Fair Folk are what most people mean when they refer to Fair Folk: Chaos that has, as their name suggests, taken a form, whether it be transitory or even potentially permanent.  They have shaped Wyldstuff into a rough form and stretched it around their feeding maws, making them more than just a ball of Chaos.  Some take humanoid forms (though rarely truly human shapes), while others prefer to be animals, monsters, or even emotions or landscapes.

The Shaped Fair Folk (or simply Fair Folk) further divide themselves into Noble or Common Fair Folk, depending on their relative powers (and how they came to be, whether their consciousness shaped itself from the Wyld, or whether they were created by another Fair Folk).  These yet again divide themselves into Courts, much like Creation’s elementals, the better to politic and circle one another, to create thrilling dramas in which they can play many parts.  For, you see, the Fair Folk feed on emotion, and while their passion plays and diversions can keep them somewhat sated for a time, the emotions and thoughts of the Creation-born are vibrant delicacies.

The Unshaped, on the other hand, dwell in the deepest reaches of the Wyld, leaving all the things of Creation to the Creation-born or their lesser cousins.  They wander the depths of Pure Chaos, and their motives are as many and varied as they themselves.  However, one thing can be stated with as much certainty as anything among the Fair Folk: the Unshaped hate Creation, and are, indeed, Creatures of Darkness in the eyes of the Unconquered Sun.  They are inimical to Creation, and their very presence can unshape and dissolve vast swaths of Creation itself back into Chaos.

Whether Shaped or Unshaped, Fair Folk can feed on the souls of the Creation-born.  To do this, they drain Virtues or Willpower, regaining Essence from the exchange.  Some Fair Folk survive exclusively on this feeding while in Creation (for Creation’s static nature drains Fair Folk rapidly without some alternate source of energy), while others merely dabble now and then.  This feeding leaves mortals forever changed, drained of their emotional extremes or even of volition itself.  The Guild makes a practice of selling slaves to the Fair Folk, for them to drain into such mindless husks, and then buying those same husks back as cheap, disposable, manual labor.

Shaped or Unshaped, Noble or Commoner, all Fair Folk exist to amuse themselves.  Indeed, stories are their literal reason for existing.  In the Wyld, they can tell fabulous tales of kingdom-toppling love or hatred that can animate the dead, feats of daring both heroic and villainous, or anything in between.  The Wyld is their playground, and they control it utterly.  When they come into Creation, they are no less dangerous, though they may be less powerful, for life and death mean nothing to them, and the people of Creation are little more than strange, new pawns in their never-ending games.  They are a worthy foe for any Exalt, for though they may not be an Exalt’s equal in combat, even the mighty Exalted can be caught up in their stories.

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10 comments

  1. Very useful and easy to understand, while deep and complex. Nice work, Octopoid 😀


  2. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it, and hope it was helpful. To me, the Fair Folk are one of the neatest parts of the Exalted setting, but their mechanics make my head hurt. Holden’s promised Graceful Wicked Masques errata is (to me) more anticipated than Sidereal errata.


    • Yeah, I wait those errata too 😀


  3. Hey there. I’ve only recently discovered Exalted, and thought I’d stop in to comment (now that I’ve read all you’ve written in this Exalted for Dummies thing so far) that I very much enjoyed reading this, and have found it rather useful in understanding the world of Exalted.

    So far, I love the way the Exalted books are written, and the style is very cool, but at the same time, in some ways because of the style (I think), getting into Exalted is very daunting, as it seems very.. sprawling, and maybe somewhat disorganized. I have yet to actually play in a game (trying to find someone in my gaming group to run it, as I want to play, and am currently running a D&D 3.5 game anyways), but I will probably pass this site on to anyone in my gaming group who sounds interested in Exalted.

    Anyways, thanks for what you’ve put together here, and I’ll be checking back to see what you decide to share next!

    ~Sleet


    • Thanks for the kind words! This is exactly why I wanted to put this site together in the first place. It’s evolved past that since then, into a half dozen other little things and a collection for my own material, but the seed of Octopoid Prevarication is the idea that making Exalted more accessible means more people will play it. Please, pass this on to anyone you think would benefit at all, and I hope you get the chance to play soon!


      • Hey, the kind words are deserved, and besides, personally I find there’s not much better incentive for writing (for free) than compliments (maybe I’m vain?), so I figured, if compliments are due, and I want more of what you’re offering, then maybe by delivering said compliments, you’ll be inspired to write more. So it’s all actually completely self-serving.

        On that note, I thought about your reply to my comment, about how it started as making Exalted more accessible, and I thought, well, what’s my main problem with getting into Exalted, as someone who has not played it?

        The first thing that comes to mind is the D10-based system. I’ve played a fair amount of D&D 3.5, both in front of and behind the GM’s Screen, and I’ve played a few other systems as well -Dark Heresy, Dogs in the Vineyard, the list goes on a bit. I haven’t, however, previously played anything from White Wolf, and I’m not certain I’m grasping the system entirely.. You get a certain amount of dice to do whatever it is you’re doing based off your abilities and attributes, as well as whatever excellencies you decide to use, and then… 7 and up is generally a success? And you need a certain amount of successes, frequently determined by a contested roll? I think?

        I don’t know whether you like writing about the mechanical side of Exalted, (or if you know somewhere where this is laid out in a more straight-forward fashion?) but personally, I would appreciate a.. I don’t know, simplified? explanation of the rules?
        Also, do you have any recommendations for SAS modules for a starting group (including beginner Storyteller) for Exalted? I know actually playing the game is usually a good way to learn the rules, so maybe a basic module might help with that.

        Thank you for all the help!

        ~Sleet


      • Sorry it took so long to reply! Yeah, the major obstacle to enjoying Exalted is its rules. There is no good way to simplify them. The best way to think of it is a basic ruleset which gets modified by Charms. Each Charm is a way to break one or more rules.

        Simply put, to perform a task, you roll one or more ten-sided dice, usually one of your Attributes (which represent basic, inherent characteristics) plus one of your Abilities (which represent trained talents or skills). A result of 7, 8, or 9 is one success, while a 10 is two successes. You need a certain number of successes to succeed at the task, usually referred to as a difficulty, which varies depending on how difficult your ST thinks the task is to accomplish. Opposed rolls just set the difficulty to “however many successes the other guy got.”


  4. Hey there, again.

    I just thought I would check to see if you were planning on replying – Not a problem if you can’t help me out, I’m not expecting anything – I am the one asking for help here, after all. I just thought I’d see if you could let me know whether I should bother checking back to this comment thread as frequently as I have been.

    Thanks again.

    ~Sleet


  5. That isn’t how I understood them at al. I understood that they are exiles. That when the Balorian Campaign ended, in response to the end of so many Raksha, there came to be more unshaped, but that these were different. These never left the hunger stage. This is why so many unshaped ran through the gate into Rakshastan. They did ti to save themselves. Now they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Creation isn’t right for them, but the Wyld is now too dangerous for them. They are trying to survive, but it is difficult for them. They literally are stories. They survive by continuing to tell themselves. They feed on human emotions, but not really., They more feed on continuing their story, as it were. I see what you are saying, but I certainly don’t see them as a feeding maw any more then I see a tiger a a feeding maw. In fact a human iOS basically a feeding maw too in the sense that we all need to feed, or we perish. But maybe I was wrong. One of us is.


  6. That isn’t how I understood them at al. I understood that they are exiles. That when the Balorian Campaign ended, in response to the end of so many Raksha, there came to be more unshaped, but that these were different. These never left the hunger stage. This is why so many unshaped ran through the gate into Rakshastan. They did ti to save themselves. Now they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Creation isn’t right for them, but the Wyld is now too dangerous for them. They are trying to survive, but it is difficult for them. They literally are stories. They survive by continuing to tell themselves. They feed on human emotions, but not really., They more feed on continuing their story, as it were. I see what you are saying, but I certainly don’t see them as a feeding maw any more then I see a tiger a a feeding maw. In fact a human iOS basically a feeding maw too in the sense that we all need to feed, or we perish. But maybe I was wrong. One of us is.



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