Prompt: What does being a Solar Exalted mean to you?

To be a Solar is a process, a journey.

A Solar is gifted with power that no human being can truly grasp. It is not only the strength to do the impossible, but the responsibility to do the impossible. But this isn’t going to sink in to a brand-new Solar at first. They’ve lived their entire lives as human mortals in a world where they may as well be a walking sack of meat surrounding gunpowder. The idea that they can change the entire world won’t even cross their mind. They’ll be focused on small, personal things – what they know they can do, and might have been able to do before if they’d been just a bit stronger.

Of course, before long you begin to realize that the things you thought were nearly impossible suddenly are as easy as breathing. Your strength, your intelligence, your sheer power begins to really sink in, and you start to shoot higher. You take on ever greater challenges, testing your abilities and pushing the limits of what you can do, all the while thinking you can make things better for yourself……and still it’s easy as breathing.

And as The Elegant Nova once said, you have no problems, and that is the problem. A solar that thinks in human terms gets everything they want from life and is going to be bored to tears before long. And as a Solar looks for any stimulation they can, they begin to think bigger. A mercenary that wanted to rule a city turns his eyes to ruling a nation. A priestess who converted a village thinks to convert the region. An assassin who killed the south’s worst mortal slaver starts to plan an attack on the Mask of Winters.

And only then, when you find yourself facing an actual challenge to your skills, do you realize just how powerful you are. Because dozens of nations bow to you now. Because a city that speaks a language you’ve never even heard of turns their voices to you and to the sun. Because you wear the Mask of Winters.

To be a Solar is to think yourself weak, to realize you have earth-shattering power, and to learn to use it.

To be a Solar is to learn to be great, because you can no longer be anything less.

To be a Solar is to realize the crapsack world you were born into is not only fixable, but is now yours to fix.

Because the cynics have had their run.

Hope has returned to Creation.

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Exalted Commentary – Abyssals and Resonance

I like to think about ways a story or idea could be made better with as few changes to the original as I can manage. The original doesn’t neccessarily have to be bad enough to need the change, it just needs to be an improvement. I had a rather nice one recently regarding Abyssals from Exalted.

Before I get into the dirty details, a little background for the uninitiated (you can probably skip past the next section if you’re already familiar with Exalted):

Abyssals, or Deathknights, are a type of character class in the roleplaying game Exalted. They are the black knights, champions of darkness and death itself. Their powers originally were Solar, of light and life, but were stolen and turned into powers of darkness and death. (it’s a little more complicated than that, but it’ll do for now) A Deathknight gains their powers when they’re about to die: a Deathlord (or Neverborn, I’ve never been clear on which) speaks to them and offers a deal: give up your name to serve Oblivion and bring about the end of all Creation, or die. The Deathknights are the ones who decided that yes, their life was more important than the entire rest of Creation and their very identity.

Of course, this makes it utterly impossible to be a hero with a Deathknight, since you’re basically a slave to the Deathlords, who are themselves slaves to the Neverborn (Dead Titans, basically – we’ll skip over them for now) who want nothing but Oblivion for all the world. So there’s also the option to play a Renegade deathknight – an Abyssal that decided Oblivion wasn’t worth serving and ran off.

Of course, this incurs the wrath of your masters, building a stat called Resonance. Resonance builds whenever you do something to Creation that has an overall positive effect on it and doesn’t help further the cause of Oblivion. It essentially causes any friendship, love or even just acquaintanceship you have with anyone that isn’t a servant of Oblivion (or your Lunar bondmate, but don’t get me started on Lunars) to turn sour and things around you to suffer and die. The exact effect varies from GM to GM, but they include things such as animals dropping dead, a blight spreading wherever you walk, a cloud of darkness filled with screams, ice freezing everything you touch… Ya know, typical champion of death stuff.

Now, there’s only one chance for an Abyssal to be redeemed: it’s possible, after a fashion, for an Abyssal to turn into a Solar (champion of light, law and life). However, canonically, it hasn’t happened yet, so your character would be the first, and it is a very difficult journey. In the meantime pretty much anything you do to try and be a hero will result in everyone you care about (and everything around you) suffering.

(Ok, Exalted fans, you can tune back in now)

One criticism I’ve heard levied at Deathknights in Exalted is that they basically have only two options: journey to redemption, or omnicidal monster. I disagree with this but I understand the argument, and especially why this would be a problem: Exalted is supposed to be a universe where heroes and heroism matter, but why would an Abyssal’s acts be worth anything if you’re playing out the same two paths as anyone else? A solar could start a kingdom, save all of Creation, go on a personal journey of redemption, restore the first age… pretty much anything a hero from our own world’s legends could do. An Abyssal’s storylines, however, (so goes the argument) are limited to omnicidal monster… and trying to gain redemption to become a Solar in which case you might as well have built a Solar in the first place.

We’ll ignore for the moment that becoming a Renegade Deathknight, breaking the bonds of slavery, (oh yeah, forgot to mention, the Deathknights are basically slaves in 2e) as could being a dark knight for Creation, or fighting the Deathlords on their own turf, or a myriad number of other characters and storylines could be heroic in their own way. Let’s look at the other major complaint: Resonance.

A big problem with Resonance is just how easy it is to gain. You have a track of 10 for Resonance, which is supposed to go up when the Neverborn get pissed at you. That much is fine – Limit has a 10 track too, and with no Great Curse (which I won’t get into here) the Abyssals need something to balance it out. The problem is that, by strict word of the story, Resonance can be gained by sneezing in a crowd of people because you’re not killing that crowd of people.

Exalted’s 3rd edition (yay Onyx Path!) has altered the Deathknight’s relationship with the Deathlords to master/apprentice, and that works fine in my opinion (Gives the Deathknights more breathing room to carve out their own story while keeping the whole ‘dark solar’ feel) but I had another idea that I felt at least deserved a mention: Houserule that  Deathknights have their knowledge about Resonance sealed away by a dormant spell that activates when they turn renegade, so that Renegades don’t know about Resonance.

Hear me out.

Resonance, at its core, is supposed to represent how an Abyssal is trapped by their destiny as a creature of unending death and destruction, right? And the (alleged) problem with Abyssals is that they have only two real storylines, right? Well, losing the knowledge that their actions are being watched and reprimanded by the Neverborn means that the Abyssals lose incentive to work for them. This means that, if your Deathknight goes renegade, he doesn’t have to seek redemption or be an omnicidal jerk if he doesn’t want to. So a deathknight not only can go for the redemption or omnicide storylines, but can also be a dark knight in service of good, a warrior who uses the tactics of the enemy… it gives the character a lot more room to act, to be! It also implies that each deathknight knew that Resonance would harm those around them and chose to leave before the knowledge was sealed anyway (meaning they either trusted themselves to find redemption or just didn’t care… and the latter’s already there with the way abyssals are chosen).

But there’s one other storyline opportunity that this opens up with plenty of room for drama, and it’s the main reason I’d like to see this done.

Imagine this scenario, if you will: A deathknight has been fighting for a city or village or something for years. Found friends, found love, found a place to protect and call home, a la a standard superhero. But the universe itself seems out to corrupt, destroy or just plain hurt everything she cares about. Everywhere she goes, despite all the people she helps, tragedy befalls her and her friends, and the darkness swells in her heart. We’re talking Spiderman levels of suffering here: people she cares about die, suffer, are turned evil or even have their souls eaten, and usually through her own actions (albeit indirectly and by accident). She’s constantly tormented by the desire to do evil, but she tries her damndest to be a hero. She assumes that the massive releases that come from Resonance are just side-effects of her death powers, and she does her best to minimize their impact.

Now picture her defeating another Deathknight, with similar powers and the whole omnicidal maniac thing. And during the fight, she learns that because of her powers, everything good she’s ever done has caused harm around her.

As long as she has her powers (and once Exalted it can’t be taken away, save through death) she will either serve Oblivion or everyone and everything she cares about will suffer and die right before her eyes.

Now, Deathknights become deathknights by basically saying that their life is more important than everything else in Creation. So she suddenly knows now that not only is she an utter monster, but it is her fault that everyone she loves is suffering and dieing around her. And whenever she tries to help, her Resonance will only grow, which will just make the situation worse.

Imagine the sheer horror of this kind of revelation to a character. The Deathknight would be shocked to her core.

So, you may ask, what happens next?

I don’t know. And that’s what I love about this idea.

The character will show so much about who she is and what she wants by how she responds to this revelation. Will she go back to the deathlords, her last hope shattered? Will she go into self-imposed exile, afraid to so much as touch the people she loves? Will she go onto the road of redemption at long last, desperately trying to make herself into something other than a spectre of death? Will she not change her lifestyle at all, showing she much prefers the thrill and glamor of heroism to the reality? Will she commit suicide, unable to cope with the utter lack of- Okay probably not that one, since you’d have to roll a new character, but you get the idea! There’s so much room for drama and growth there, imho.

Of course, I have little experience with Exalted or Abyssals (definitely less than I’d like =( ), so maybe this idea is actually incredibly stupid/impossible because of some other detail i missed.

I’d love to here your thoughts on this, too. What ideas would you implement to help Abyssal mechanics/characters? What problems to Abyssals have in your games? Does 3e look to be fixing those problems? Do the Abyssals not have any problems at all and I’m a dumbass for even bringing up that they might (look, I’m just countering an argument presented to me, okay?! 😛 )

(Also, something funny i noticed: ‘General Motors’ is one of the recommended tags for this post.)

Prompt: What does your character dream of when they sleep? What kind of nightmares do they have?

In the darkest places of her nightmares, the goddess of Light and Law remembers her earliest days, of darkest caves without end beneath the surface of Gaia, of being a little girl sobbing and horrified in the night. But this time, it does not end. This time, with no light to sustain her, the shard of the old Titan Mortan slowly but surely wastes away in the darkness.

Ouran, Lord of Change, has not dreamed as a mortal does in a long time. Perhaps he never shall again. But when he sleeps, he sees the great tapestry that is reality itself. Dark blue threads of light weave around him, and as he reaches out to touch them, he sees Change wrought upon the world. In his sleep, of course, these changes are minimal. But still he watches and reaches forth. For the Lord of Change knows his impact is greater than it seems.

Lone Star has his own tumblr blog. I’ll quote it here:

“I am sitting in a dark room, with naught around me. I decide tonight to begin with a song. I listen, and I hear beautiful music. I turn my ears for the source that I know is not there, and see a singer. The singer smiles, and waves as the song ends. She looks at me and says nothing at first. I speak her name as a question, though I knew it not before I spoke. She says she has no face, and I see she is right, so I describe it to her.

And slowly I build her, and the world around her. I help her find who she is. I help her find love, and joy, and all of the dreams I have given her. I love her as a father loves his daughter. And when I feel myself waking up I begin to weep, for I shall never see her again.

But I know I shall craft again tomorrow night, and I shall love him too.

… I don’t even wanna think about my nightmares.”

Ombra, Prince of Shadows, dreams of a great awakening, when all of mortalkind realizes just how thoroughly they have been enslaved. He sees governments tossed down, politicians executed, and the world burned. But from the ashes rose a new world, one where all simply did what was right without reminder or coercion.

And no damn traffic lights…

The Shadowrunner codenamed “Curtain” dreams all sorts of things. But they’re always purple.

…What? She likes purple.

Silent Mask, Night Caste Solar Exalted, dreams of his most difficult kills, and his hardest bounties. Sometimes, though, he dreams of his enemy, and driving her into the depths of rage. The Fire Aspect tries to burn his face off, but the Night Caste just kisses her and slips away, waiting for their next duel.

And other times, he sees her in a white dress, with a shining man with four arms blessing their union… Iron Wolf and Fire Dragon, together at last… Love is in her remaining eye…

Of course, at that point he knows it’s a dream and wakes himself up before his hopes go too high. But sometimes he casts his thoughts wistfully towards that beautiful smile and wishes…