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Exalted: Modern – For My Players

June 20, 2011

Circumstances seem to have afforded me the probable opportunity to run a game of Exalted: Modern for a pair of my long-time gamer friends.  I am so excited about this, and I find I am having difficulty hiding it.  My control is wavering, but I don’t mind.  In fact, I think I like it.  I always enjoy running Exalted games, but this one is personal.  It’s a setting I’ve worked hard to customize, and one I am eager to see stress-tested (and these two will stress test it, believe you me). 

Rather than let an opportunity go to waste, I felt like sharing the start of this game with those who care about such things.  In addition to utilizing my ‘blog as a personal message board for these two, it will give me a chance to share the themes of Exalted as I see them, as I want to stress them. 

We’re going to begin with each player making a trio of Heroic mortals (un-Enlightened).  We will explore the prelude with each of these six characters, walking them through the kinds of trials and travails that threaten the mortals of the Exalted: Modern world.  Ideally, these will end up with the characters Exalting, but my players need to know, this is not a guarantee.  Exaltations are notoriously choosy about whom they Exalt.  A proper vessel must be suitably heroic and must be willing to use power.  Exaltation is going to be dependent upon the choices you make during your prelude.  I don’t plan to be a douchebag about it… Exaltation is the likely outcome.  But, it bears repeating, it will be dependent on the choices YOU make.  Your characters will need to convince the Exaltations that they are worthy of being Exalts, without ever knowing they’re convincing anyone of anything.  Form your characters’ personalities accordingly.

Once you Exalt, the world will change dramatically.  Things that were once all-consuming tasks will become trivial.  Things that were once life-threatening challenges will become nothing more than simple amusements.  Things that once demanded virtue and moral fortitude will become petty discussions and theoretical exercises.  Once the characters have advanced past their nascent stages, I will be posting fake news articles from the setting, showcasing how the world views the actions of the characters (and the other Exalted in the world… after all, you won’t be alone). 

This is at the heart of my view of Exalted.  In the World of Darkness, success is a precious commodity, something to be achieved by scrimping and clawing, fighting tooth and nail, and coming through bloodied and bowed, if at all.  Victory is Pyrrhic more often than not, when it even exists.  In Exalted, success is trivial.  It is almost a foregone conclusion.  Challenge comes not from overcoming obstacles, for obstacles that can tax the mighty Exalted are few and far between.  Challenge comes from having success handed to you on a silver platter.  It comes from facing inevitable superiority.  It comes from breaking down barrier after barrier, growing past the limits you thought you could ever surpass, and then turning your eye ever to the next threshold.  It comes from facing the consequences of your success and learning that success is not always what you thought.

The game, like the prelude, will be dependent upon the choices you make. 

Lytek’s footsteps echoed as he strode down the massive, empty hallway.  His robes, once forged of shimmering light, were now merely silk, and threadbare at that.  His boots were worn nearly through.  His face, once filled with a youthful vigor, now sagged with age and worry, two things not customarily seen in gods, and certainly not in gods of the rank of the Right Hand of Power.  The millennia had not been kind to him.

Nor had they been kind to the Bureau of Heaven.  The only spiders in Yu-Shan were the Pattern Spiders, so there were no cobwebs, but the tapestries and busts lining the walls showed signs of neglect, where they had not been outright looted during numerous riots that had taken place over the last thousand years.  The floors, once polished until they gleamed, were dull and worn.  What had once been the bustling heart of the Celestial Bureaucracy was now little more than an abandoned warehouse, a storage facility for the relics of Heaven, to keep them from the hands of the deiphages and scoundrels that seemed to entirely populate Yu-Shan’s streets. 

As he rounded the corner and saw the quintet of guards around the door at the end of the final hallway, he amended his internal critique.  Not a warehouse: a prison.  The five gods, four Celestial Lions and a bruiser of the fourth rank, straightened at his approach, lifting polished weapons and baring their bright fangs.  Here, at least, there was no laxity.  Nor at any of the four other checkpoints he had passed.  The appearance of the Bureau of Heaven may have been allowed to fade, but the importance of this prisoner demanded nothing less than total dedication.

“Lytek, Right Hand of Power to see the prisoner.”  He lifted a hand and spent precious Essence to produce a glimmering sigil that imparted his rank and authority to the guardians.  They hesitated, triple checking his credentials, before moving to disable the numerous wards and traps on the doors. 

“Make it short, sir.”  The Lion looked irritable.  “He’s due to be… interrogated… at 0900 hours.”

Interrogated.  The Celestial Censors had long ago wrung all they could out of this poor man.  Whatever his crimes… and they were numerous… he did not deserve this unending torment.  Once, they had even been friends.  Lytek sighed and nodded.  As the guards opened the doors, he stepped once again into a prison only slightly better than Hell.

The cell was a single, massive room.  Once, it had been the most opulent office in a city of opulent offices, wasteful in its space if nothing else.  Now, it contained nothing but an occupant, his elaborate shackles, and row upon row of “interrogation” devices, some more fiendish than Lytek liked to believe.  In the center of the room knelt an old man.  Five chains, one of each of the Magical Materials, locked him down, his arms bound at the small of his back.  A series of glyphs were carved variously into the floor around him, the chains that bound him, and his skin, holding him sorcerously as well as physically.  His beard and hair had grown so long that his face was nearly entirely hidden, save for the burning fury that never seemed to entirely leave his eyes.

“Lytek.”  His voice was thin as ancient parchment.  “To what do I owe the honor?”

“I have news for you, old friend.  It’s happened.”

The old man’s head snapped up as best it could.  “They’ve returned?”

Lytek nodded solemnly.  “The Solar Exalted have left my cabinet.”

Chejop Kejak smiled slowly.  “At last.”

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