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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.

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