The Nature of Exaltation

If someone could format this to make it easier to read that would be awesome!—Ralph

I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, the fact that I like the Dragonblooded means I find them interesting, which does not imply morally correct or that I feel they have to “win” (whatever that means). Some people do, but I’ve never said so.

But here’s the thing – I don’t think they’re bad either. I think they’ll FAIL, sure, because that’s the canonical end of the Age of Sorrows, but so will everyone else.

But they aren’t going to fail because they’re not heroic enough. Nor are the Solars. Nor are the Lunars. Nor are the Sidereals. They’ll fail because the odds are too high and the time too short and the divisions between the Exalts too deep.

(I’m excluding the Abyssals from this as they’re a special case – they’re not their own Exalt type, they’re corrupted Solars, who one and all chose to be corrupted, albeit under duress. Also they’ve only just come into existence.)

But I don’t see any of them as fools and villains. And I’ll explain why.

Now, it’s easy to see why Solars are heroes, and I hardly have to convince Nagisawa Takumi of that anyway, but hey, here goes: they’re Exalted due to excellence. They were Exalted because they surpassed their fellow man even before they had a hint of divine power. They are left in the world, alone, to forge their own destiny. Some find others like them, but there’s so few of them in such a huge world that most work alone. They have no backup, no support, and no cause beyond that which they choose for themselves (although sometimes Zeniths get instruction, they’re very vague). They have to forge their own place in a world that, if it perhaps doesn’t all fear and hate them, is mostly willing to take advantage of them at the friendliest. And they DO it. Their reappearence: scattered, without support, in a time of tumult, has nonetheless already redefined the world. Every Solar can change the world, singly or jointly. They can descend into the darkest sin or be a paragon of virtue(s). They were instrumental in building the First Age, and could build the Third. The Solars are undeniably heroes.

But they are not the only heroes.

Let me tell you what it means to be Dragonblooded. To be Dragonblooded is to have a responsibility. To be Dragonblooded is to take up the sword to defend Creation. Every Dynast can ride, and shoot, and fight both bare handed and with a weapon, and lead troops into battle. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. The most fat, jaded, lazy bureaucrat of the Thousand Scales can take up a sword and fight a strong man to a standstill without use of a single Charm, and lead troops into battle with competence. The requirements for Lookshy Dragonblooded are even more strict. If you cannot learn to fight for Creation, Dragonblooded society has no use for you. They believe themselves to be the only force standing between Creation and that which would destroy it, and they act accordingly. That does not just include personal competence. To be Dragonblooded is not a title, or an adornment, but membership in a single nation. Only Dragonblooded, of all the Exalted, have a Charm that allows them to take their most hated Dragonblooded foe and instantly trust and love them like a brother to join together to fight a greater threat. That is their duty: that is their call. You say they have failed Creation in their stewardship. But they have saved it. Saved it once, and twice, and many times over. When they overthrew the Solars, they were dying in scores, in droves, in their hundreds and thousands, but they would not surrender. They would not break. They fought until every last one was gone, because the brotherhood does not retreat. When the Great Contagion broke the armies of the Shogunate and the survivors faced oncoming endless hordes of horrors from beyond reality, they did not lay down and die, or flee screaming and broken. Oh, a few may have, but the records are clear on the whole: they fought. They fought to the end, they forced the Fair Folk to scratch and claw and die for everything they wanted to grasp, and in some places they even won, the broken remnants of reality against an impossibly larger foe! And ever since, whenever anything has threatened Creation, any horror has run loose upon it, the Dragonblooded have marched. They have fought the Fair Folk. They have fought rogue gods. They have fought the armies of the dead. Some have failed, some have died, a few have even turned traitor, but the brotherhood of the Dragons still stands in the defence of Creation. Even now, at the beginning of the setting, the Dragonblooded are the two mightiest forces in Creation. They have a religion that venerates them, yes, but also one that orders them to treat mortals well, which is more than one can say for any other known religion in Creation. And they police themselves. Sometimes it is effective and sometimes not, but even now the realms of the Dragonblooded are the safest and most stable in Creation. Even now, in both the Realm and Lookshy, you can find mortals in position of power. Even now, the peasants eat, the spirits are kept doing their proper jobs, and the foes of Creation dare not yet enter, because that is the peace that the Dragonblooded fought and bled and died for. Everything in Creation, everything that lives, owes its life to the Dragonblooded, because it is they who have been the army that defended Creation since the Solars were overthrown and the Lunars left. Every Solar owes his life to the Dragonblooded, even if he owes his death to them as well. Creation might need a more powerful protector, but it could never ask for a more loyal and dedicated one. The Dragonblooded are heroes.

But they are not the only heroes.

Let me tell you what it means to be Lunar. To be Lunar is to be tougher than any other Exalt ever had to be. Lunars don’t Exalt for trying to do something audacious and remarkable, like Solars. They Exalt because they did something audacious and remarkable. A Solar might Exalt for taking up a sword to defend his village against the Fair Folk, but a Lunar only Exalts if he survived doing that. A Lunar has to win, to overcome a trial that seems impossible, before they get any reward. That is the life of a Lunar in a nutshell. They do not have the overwhelming power of the Solars, nor the brotherhood of the Dragonblooded, nor the support of Heavens and certain knowedge of the Sidereals. And yet they survive nonetheless. There is no challenge the Lunars cannot survive. The fury of the Primordials could not destroy them. The Dragonblooded and Sidereals could not stop them from escaping. The Wyld twisted them, broke them at their very core, crippled that which made them Exalted, and the Lunars yet survived. They not only survived, they remade themselves. Without their patron, without the Solars, without anyone else, the Lunars forged themselves new Exaltation and survived still. If they could not inhabit Creation, they inhabited the Wyld, a place absolutely antithetical to life, and survived still. And they did not just simply survive, either, cowering like dogs at the edge of a campfire’s light. They grew stronger. They seized places of power. They forged nations. And they forged each other. They found new Lunars and tattooed them as the Lunars now needed to survive. And they did this without Sidereal astrology or any other means of instantly finding out when and where one Exalted. They did this through constant vigilence and looking out for those who needed it most. Nobody, not even the Solars, have faced what the Lunars have. The Solars merely died. But the Lunars were broken down to their very soul. Every Lunar, everywhere, is broken. But they have not died. They have not surrendered and become the lapdogs of the Dragonblooded and received the considerable benefits of their strength. They have not turned their backs on Creation, either. They have not walked out into the Wyld and left everything behind. Despite everything, despite terror and betrayal and death, despite being wounded more than any other Exalt could even imagine, they remain steadfast and true to themselves above all. The Lunars are heroes.

But they are not the only heroes.

Let me tell you what it means to be Sidereal. There is no life harder than that of a Sidereal. To be Sidereal is to be chosen, from birth, although you neither knew nor asked for it. To be Sidereal is to Exalt and be told that now you must train to be the finest-edged weapon in Creation, that you will spend the rest of your incredibly long life protecting Creation, and that there is no time for weakness, for doubt, or for failure. You will do what is required of you, or you will die and another will be chosen who is of a finer mettle than you. And most every Sidereal you will ever meet was given that choice, nodded their head, and devoted their existence to keeping Creation from the abyss. You may sneer that Sidereals control the world. That is true, but it is nothing to be rejoiced about. Controlling the world is a literal thing for Sidereals, not figurative. They must espy every aspect of it. They must figure out when anything is going wrong. And then they must stop it. Ninety-nine Sidereals, to our knowledge, do this. Ninety-nine men and women work day in and day out for Creation, and their only reward is another assignment and knowing that Creation has gone on another day. They have given up friends. They can love, but will never be loved for themselves. They erased their very existences from Creation to better serve it; if their judgement on how to best serve Creation was wrong, it does not erase the sacrifices they have made in pursuit of the noblest goal there is. They don’t have vacations, because there is no time and nobody to take their place. They can amass staggering wealth and power but will never be able to enjoy it. Some guide the Solars, some guide the Dragonblooded: in either case, they see young heroes who have their whole lives ahead of them and can do whatever they want with it, who have the ability, the sheer luxury of saying on any given day “screw this, I’m going to go do something else”. That’s the freedom the Sidereal will never have, can never have, but they will do their job nonetheless and try their damndest to help the Solars or Dragonblooded to save Creation. That is their reward – that Creation lives another day. Not adulation. Not even a thank you. Just a satisfactory result. And they die. Oh yes, they die. Sidereals are the longest-lived of all the Exalted. And yet barely any survive from before the Usurpation. Why? Because they are out, every day, doing what they think must be done to save the world. And many times they die doing it. And death might be a relief, except it’s an abject failure which has taken out a key piece of the network that keeps Creation safe. You may not agree with the decisions they make, but only an ingrate or someone suffused with hatred could fail to be in awe at the sacrifices the Sidereals make for what they believe they have to do. Their lives are only the first step. Only a Sidereal could, and does, wield a weapon which is immensely more effective against someone they love. Not pretend to love. Not have convinced that he loves. Not said he loves. Loves. Truly. Deeply. That weapon was built because it would be used. Because to be a Sidereal is to put nothing above your task of defending Creation. Not yourself. Not the one your love. Not your desires. Not anything. You don’t matter. You chose not to matter. You chose figuratively (and quite literally in the oldest cases) not to even exist, all in the desire, the drive, the duty to make sure that Creation does exist. The Sidereals are heroes.

But they, too, are not the only heroes.

All of them are heroes. Not individually, of course – there’s always individual exceptions. But collectively? Yes. Oh yes. Collectively, they have given more of themselves then anybody should ever be asked to do, and they have done it gamely and with excellence. They have all accomplished feats that border on and in many cases should have been impossible.

They are EXALTED. The name of the game is EXALTED. And the Exalted, all of them, are heroes.

The tragedy of the setting is that being heroic is not enough. Giving of yourself is not enough. Straining yourself to the utmost is not enough. It’s too late, too hard, the enemies are at the gates and they cannot be denied. Not by the Solars, or the Dragonblooded, or the Lunars, or the Sidereals or anyone else.

That’s where the PCs come in.

—Post by Ayiekie on RPGnet Forums http://forum.rpg.net/showpost.php?p=6205570&postcount=172

The Nature of Exaltation

Exalted: Creation In Strife Souls512