Archive for April, 2011

h1

Exalted: Modern – The Lunars

April 29, 2011

When the Sidereals led the Dragon-Blooded in the Usurpation of the Solar Exalted, the Lunars were caught in the middle.  Dismissed by the Sidereals as unimportant, many surprised the usurpers by fighting at the side of their mates and dying to the last.  However, many proved the Sidereals correct, fleeing Creation into the Wyld where the Viziers’ Fate-magic could not find them.

A handful of Lunar Exaltations were trapped in Yu-Shan with those of the Sidereals when they sealed off Heaven, but most remained free and incarnate.  Ingosh Silverclaws, the de facto leader of the scattered Lunars, wrangled as many as he could, pulling them into the Deep Wyld and gathering them together for their own safety and security.  He and the other surviving Lunars formed the Silver Pact, a loose gathering of Lunars who would guide those who remained through their exile and would, eventually, lead them back to Creation for vengeance upon the usurpers.

Unfortunately, the Wyld began to harmonize with the protean nature of the Lunars’ Exaltations, and their Castes began to melt, just as in the Creation we know.  The Silver Pact struggled, eventually developing the moonsilver tattoos that fixed the Lunars in their forms.  Many fell to Chimerism, however, and the Pact despaired.  Worse still, slain Lunar Exaltations could not find their way back into Creation, so they wandered, lost, in the spaces between the stars, always seeking new hosts.

In the depths of the Wyld, the Lunars forged new societies.  Believing Creation itself had fallen and been lost forever, the Lunars instead began to shepherd what few remnants of humanity they had led into exile.  They forged planets and worlds out of the chaos, and bred with their people, expanding them across these new worlds.  They made bargains with the Fair Folk, forcing them into lopsided deals, and using them to craft new species.  They drifted further and further from their humanity.

Their subjects were often eligible to receive Exaltation, and so the Lunars did not dwindle.  The beastmen breeds became the standard for Lunar Exaltation, and humanity itself fell into subjugation and, eventually, extinction.  As the last of the surviving First Age Lunars perished of old age, the old ways were lost, and the new generations of chimeric beasts and protean horrors claimed precedence over hundreds of worlds, each ruled by a Lunar in whatever way he or she saw fit.  While these Exaltations retained their memories, unable to reach Lytek’s cabinet as they were, those old habits passed away.

When the Jade Prison broke, the combined might of all three hundred Solar Exaltations broke the barrier to Yu-Shan and began to grace the mortals of Earth with their power.  Lunars across the galaxy felt the tug of their Solar mates’ return, and turned their attentions to Earth.  Long had they passed over the planet inside the dead space, presuming it could not have been their Creation, but now they knew differently.  In addition, the handful of imprisoned Lunar Exaltations were freed to choose mortal shells once more.  The Exalted had returned, and the Lunars once again were drawn to Earth.

If you choose to play as one of these alien beings, how will you define your legend?  Born on a faraway world, bred from beasts and men and stranger things yet, how will you see the people and Exalted of Earth?  With humanity a distant, unknown thing, recollected only in dim memories carried by your Exaltation, will you see the Earth as a thing to be protected once more?  Or is it merely another cosmic jewel waiting to be claimed by the strongest conqueror?

Modern Lunars tend to come from the same archetypes as canonical Lunars: iconoclasts, renegades, and rogues.  Those who come from the Outer Wyld often have bizarre places in their societies before Exaltation, but as the societies themselves are bizarre, generalizations are difficult, if not impossible.  Those few Lunars who come from Earth often find themselves rising amongst those marginalized societies who need a guardian: the impoverished, the displaced, and the outcast.  Native Americans, hobos, and radical protestors (environmental or otherwise) are all examples of those who have a higher-than-average chance of receiving the Silver Exaltation.

Lunar Exalted begin play with one free dot of Resistance, one free level of Ox-Body Technique, and Deadly Beastman Transformation at no additional cost.  At character generation, players may choose whether or not to play a Lunar from the outer cosmos or one of the most recent Exalted from Earth.  Outer Lunars may take the Past Life Background up to three dots, and begin play with a suite of 10 bonus points’ worth of mutations appropriate to their native world.  Lunars from Earth use standard Lunar Casteless character generation rules, though they may earn their Caste in play as normal.  Lunars need no special permission to begin play with high ratings in Backing, Cult or Influence.  The Heart’s Blood Background does not cost any points, but is limited by the ST’s discretion.  The Solar Bond Background is likewise free, letting the player customize the level of his character’s Bond.  However, should he wish to define the traits of the Solar in question, he should be encouraged to purchase the Allies Background at the appropriate level.

h1

Exalted Modern – The Sidereals

April 27, 2011

Perhaps the most influential Exalted on the modern world, if not the most influential in it, the Sidereal Exalted have ever been the powers behind the thrones of Creation.  They advised the Solar Exalted during the time of the Deliberative, but when their advice was repeatedly ignored, when the Solars began experiments that made any sane man question the very existence of tomorrow, action had to be taken.

As in the Creation we know, the Sidereals cast a great prophecy and saw three potential futures for the world.  In the first, they overthrew the Solars, and the world survived, though lessened.  In the second, they did nothing, and all that was ceased to be.  In the third, they attempted to guide Creation, and they had a chance of success, but not even their auguries could be certain.

In the end, as in the Creation we know, they chose the first option.  Little did they understand how much lessened Creation would be.  The Usurpation continued as planned, save that it was significantly more successful.  No Solar escaped the massacre, and the Jade Prison was filled with the Exaltations of every Solar in Creation, all three hundred.  But they did not stop there.  Filled with hubris, they determined to change reality itself to suit their whims, though it killed them all.

They raised the Kukla and reshaped the world, murdering billions in their arrogance.  Gods and elementals cried out as the cataclysm swept Creation.  It is said that Mars herself lifted her head, prepared to enter the Loom of Fate to preserve the world, but Saturn stayed her hand.  “There is always an ending.”

One by one, the powerful sorceries and Charms and astrologies tore apart the fabric of the Loom, refitting it to the designs of the Sidereals, and one by one, the Sidereals died, their lives drained by the effort of their undertaking.  Normally, Sidereal incarnations are predestined, but with reality unraveling and mortals dying by the millions, their Exaltations fled to Lytek’s cabinet, huddled in on themselves until the storm passed.

Unfortunately, as part of the cataclysm, the Sidereals sealed all the gates to Yu-Shan from within, ensuring that none of the gods could escape and undo their handiwork.   It also prevented the Exaltations from leaving Yu-Shan.  As the Sidereals died, their numbers dwindled and remained trapped.  When the magical energies died, and the Loom stood reformed in its new shape, only Chejop Kejak remained alive.

Heaven itself, stunned from the betrayal of the Viziers, lashed out.  Kejak was audited literally to the cusp of death, before being imprisoned in the most secure facility available to Yu-Shan, his biological functions suspended to prevent even the chance that he might die and escape his torment.  Sidereals were officially stripped of all their power, and if the Maidens objected, they did not speak of it.  Throughout it all, the Unconquered Sun and Luna did not lift their heads from the Games.

8000 years passed.  Yu-Shan fell into corruption and indolence.  Gods live forever, and with no way to engender worship on Earth or affect their domains, they suddenly had a closed economy, one where excess and indulgence could not simply be waved off with the next appearance of Quintessence.  A spiritual blackness fell over Yu-Shan, and without the Exalted to guide them, and no reason to do their jobs, the entire cosmology spiraled into despair and ruin.

When the Solar Exalted returned from their prison, they shattered the bindings on the Yu-Shan gates.  Sidereals began to Exalt again, but with no support structure, and the grudges of the everlasting gods, they are more hunted even than the Solars.  The Maidens, however, have opened the seals on the Arts of Greater Astrology, and some take that as their covert blessing on the return of their Chosen.  Sidereals war quietly now with gods and elementals and Exalted, some seeking to reclaim their place in the hierarchy of Heaven, while others strive to fix the numerous and varied problems with Earth.

And in the center of all the chaos, alone in his cell, Chejop Kejak waits.

Modern Sidereals tend to Exalt from backgrounds of importance and influence, if not celebrity.  An influential member of the Department of Health and Human Services might find himself a Chosen of Serenity, while an influential but anonymous conspiracy theorist might suddenly become a Chosen of Secrets.  Subtlety and connection are paramount in the Sidereal Exaltations, even after 8000 years.  If you choose to play one of the returning Viziers, you must decide whether you will strive to repair the damage your spiritual ancestors have caused, or whether you will carve out your own niche in this new world and make the best of what you and yours have wrought.

Perhaps one of the most important changes to Sidereals in the Modern setting is the existence of the Mask.  In the canon setting, the Sidereals broke the constellation of the Mask to hide their guilt over the Usurpation.  In the Modern setting, they never got the chance to do so.  Among other things, this means that the Arcane Fate rule does not apply to Sidereals.  They are as subject to the consequences of being remembered as anyone else.  However, they can still shroud their identities by means of Resplendent Destinies… should they manage to convince the Pattern Spiders to grant their petition, of course.

Sidereals begin play with one free dot of Resistance, one free level of Ox-Body Technique, and a free Excellency of their choice.  The rules presented in Glories of the Most High apply, as the seals on the Greater Arts of Astrology have been opened.  The Acquaintances, Celestial Manse, Salary, and Sifu Backgrounds are unavailable at character generation.  Aside from those changes, they use standard Ronin character generation rules.

h1

Exalted Modern – The Dragon-Blooded

April 25, 2011

I’m going to be starting a new game soon… I hope… set in the Exalted: Modern setting I’ve created.  With some help from my players, I’m starting to flesh out the world.  What will follow is a series of posts detailing the changes I plan to make to the canonical setting, changes to the various types of Exalted, to the gods and elementals, and to the fundamental cosmology.  It makes sense to start with the could-have-been rulers of the world, the only type of Exalted to have remained active for 8000 years of human history.  We start with the Dragon-Blooded.

The Terrestrial Exalted are no longer what they once were.  At the end of the Usurpation, when the Kukla rose and reshaped the world, most of the Dragon-Blooded host remained in Creation, safeguarding what they could, surviving when and where they could.  Duty had always been paramount to them, and when the Sidereals explained that their duty was to protect the most critical locations and Artifacts of the First Age, to shepherd the remnant of a remnant of humanity, and to lead the Dragon Kings and other, stranger things into exile, they shouldered the burden with stoic resolve.

The cataclysm that followed cannot be adequately spoken of in words.  It is fortunate for the Dragon-Blooded that none yet live who can remember it, for the survivors were haunted and haggard for the rest of their long lives.  They weathered the apocalypse in sheltered coves deep beneath the surface of Creation.  They protected themselves with the most potent spells, Artifacts, manses, and Charms available to them.  They gathered small arks of humanity around them, saving who they could, shepherding refugees on the long trek into the secret places in the earth.

When the Kukla woke, billions died.  Never before or since has the very fabric of reality cried out in such pain.  Many Dragon-Blooded died, spending their last reserves of life and Essence keeping doom from the last vestiges of humanity.  But they succeeded.  When the seventh scale had fallen from the Kukla, when the world had cooled and the oceans had ceased boiling, the survivors crept from their safe houses and began to spread across the earth.

The cataclysm had shaken the Elemental Dragons.  Pasiap suffered most, but Mela and Danaa’d, Heiesh and Sextes Jylis, none of them survived unscathed.  All five were sent into deep slumbers as the Elemental Poles themselves were reordered, and their comatose forms were entombed deep within the center of the world, wrapped around the Jade Prison itself as its final and impassable guardians.

The final message the Dragon-Blooded received from the Sidereals was simple: “Hide.  Watch.  Protect the world, but do not interfere.”  The Dragon-Blooded made it their purpose to live amongst the humans, to serve as the Sidereals once did, and guard the world from the dangers that would face it.  They blended in, living amongst the humans, refusing to aid them in their struggles until there was no other choice.  The humans did not benefit from their wisdom or their technology.  Humanity grew without guides.

The Dragon-Blooded themselves held firm for centuries, but indolence and guardianship grow weak after time.  They mingled with the humans, thinning their blood.  They occasionally let slip hints of technology, seeding the path for leaps of invention or evolution.  Sometimes, they even ruled openly, until shadow wars between them threatened to expose them all.

They formed a conclave, a ruling body of Dragon-Blooded they called the Shogunate.  Beginning in what is now Japan, their influence slowly spread across the globe.  Rogue Dragon-Blooded still cropped up from time to time, but by and large, the Shogunate controlled the Exalted of Earth.  Their only rule was that they not rule openly.  This, they enforced by whatever means necessary.

The Dragon-Blooded weakened over the centuries, until their blood was as thin as it could be.  Dragon-Blooded were born perhaps once in every fifty children, and though strains of the blood still passed through humanity, the Dragon-Blooded themselves were dying.  Exceptional individuals remained, those in whom the blood gathered and could touch the fundamental Essence of the world, but those were the exception rather than the rule.

Now, the Solars are returning.  The Dragon-Blooded, CEOs and crime lords, powers behind thrones and nations, suddenly find all their arts insufficient to deal with the deluge of true Exalted.  It falls to those exceptional individuals, those who can still use their power, to shepherd the world in its time of need, to help guide both humanity and the returning Solars through an upheaval that may see the end of everything.  If you choose to take the role of one of these exceptional Dragon-Blooded, how will you use your power?  Will you fight for the world and protect it, as is your sacred, ancient charge?  Or will you choose to carve out what you can from the hands of the returning Solars, defying the Shogunate and claiming a chunk of the world as your own personal kingdom?

Dragon-Blooded who Exalt in the modern world are, more or less, similar to those individuals who would have received Exaltation in the canonical Creation.  However, their blood is thin and calls only weakly.  In addition to being rarer, exceptional Dragon-Blooded must come from lines of individuals who, knowingly or not, possess the blood of the dragons within them.  As such, all exceptional Dragon-Blooded have potent and accomplished ancestry, even if it is not immediate (or if they don’t know the full extent… many successful Dragon-Blooded have sired children who were never aware of their parentage).

Mechanically, Dragon-Blooded characters are those exceptional individuals in whom the blood has gathered, who can still channel Essence.  Even in them, the Breeding Background is not available.  There remain none who can teach or Enlighten the Dragon-Blooded, so Immaculate martial arts (and, in fact, all Celestial Martial Arts) are unavailable at character creation.  However, thanks to Salinan working, Sorcery is still available to Dragon-Blooded.  All Dragon-Blooded use the core book version of the Artifact Background.  The Arsenal Background is unavailable.  All exceptional Dragon-Blooded begin play with one free dot in Resistance, one free level of Ox-Body Technique, and one Excellency of their choice.  Aside from these changes, exceptional Dragon-Blooded use standard Outcase character generation rules.  Mechanically, “normal” Dragon-Blooded pay double the cost for their Charms, halve all starting Charms, and cannot raise their Essence above 4.