|RPG published by
|Rule System||Modified Storyteller System|
|Authors||Geoffrey C. Grabowski, John Mørke, Holden Shearer, Robert Vance, Eric Minton|
|First Publication||2001 (1st edition)
2006 (2nd edition)
2016 (3rd edition)
Exalted is a role-playing game by White Wolf, Inc. currently in its third edition. It is well known for its epic scale, as far as story and mechanics, and allowing the players to participate in (and cause) epic events rather than simply being bystanders. A silly group can turn this into a Kill La Kill/Gurren Lagann crossover, a serious group can turn this into the Ramayana: Romance of the Three Kingdoms edition. Both options are awesome. Compare Legends of the Wulin.
- 1 Brief Summary
- 2 Backstory
- 3 Important Elements
- 3.1 Exalted
- 3.2 Gods
- 3.3 Primordials
- 3.4 Others
- 3.5 Martial Arts
- 4 System
- 5 Relationship with the World of Darkness
- 6 See Also
- 7 External Links
Exalted is a game where one of your main antagonists is Death, Creator of the Underworld. Except there's several of him, probably six or seven. Oh, and he's got 13 dread henchmen, one of whom was probably you at some point in time. Also, Hell has a personal grudge against you this time.
Magical Rome/Persia/China regularly trains and sends ninja-monks out for you personally. Ninjas specially trained in asskicking. And if that doesn't work, they keep giant color-coded gundams and suits of power armor as backups.
The Transformers have united under Unicron (who has robo-AIDS), and are invading because they have a shortage of souls.
The Jedi Council has corrupted Heaven and usurped your rightful place as the Masters of Everything - but nobody can remember them. The only reason they haven't hunted you down is that they're too busy trying to keep reality from imploding.
Your ex-wife dropped by; she's a two thousand year old shapechanging man-eating monster, interested in maybe going on a date next Thursday for dinner, followed by breeding a new race capable of rewriting the biosphere.
Your best friend from growing up -and your last life- now seeks to cover all the lands of Middle Earth in darkness, if he can just find this damn ring.
Your god has the world's biggest crack habit, and needs some serious rehab.
You may bump into some fairies, but instead of granting wishes, they eat people's souls.
And yet, in theory, you think you can fix everything!
Welcome to Creation, kid! Hope you've got enough Essence!
Here's a history of the setting of Exalted, which may answer a bunch of questions and put things into perspective all at once.
Once upon a time, in the formless twisting chaos of the Wyld, there appeared the Primordials. The Primordials are impossibly vast alien beings with multiple souls. Imagine if Cthulhu was the size of Asia and you could meet and hold conversations with his major organs, which had separate identities, and you kinda get the idea.
“The formless chaos that spawned us sucks,” said the Primordials. “Let's build someplace cool to live, rather than hang out here!”
And so they did. They made Creation, and nailed it down with the Elemental Poles of Earth, Fire, Air, Water, and
“This place isn't going to maintain itself,” said the Primordials. “Let's make a bunch of servants to run the place for us! We'll give them intelligence, free will, and hopes and dreams, and then keep them as slaves for eternity! It'll be great!” And so they made the gods. Some gods, such as the Unconquered Sun, Luna, and the Maidens, were built to be exceedingly cool and do lots; others were built to do stuff like make sure individual shrubs grew properly.
“Huzzah!” said the Primordials. “We have people to do the dirty work of running the place for us! Let's spend half our time playing the impossibly awesome Games of Divinity, and the other half screwing with the lives of our lessers!” And so they did.
“This sucks,” said the gods, after moving the Elemental Pole of Fire back into place for 700th time after one of the Primordials went on a drinking binge and knocked it loose, causing untold thousands of deaths and nearly causing Creation to fall back into the Wyld. “We should kill those assholes and take their stuff.”
“Ha ha!” said the Primordials. “You can't kill us! When we built you, we programmed you so you could never attack us! Suck it!”
Making of the Exalted
So the Unconquered Sun, who is the God of Awesome, came up with a plan. “Let's take those little mortal humans down there and give them incredible power. Then we can have them kill the Primordials, and then we can get at their Games of Divinity and play them ourselves!” So they developed Exaltations, which are sort of like an additional component to the human soul that lets you do magic and super kung fu. Then they picked out the coolest people in Creation and instilled these Essence Shards in them.
“Are you planning on using those Exalted mortals to kill my asshole brothers and sister and take their stuff?” asked Autochthon, who was just about the only Primordial on the side of the gods, because most of the time it was his stuff that the other Primordials were breaking when they ran amok. Plus they made fun of him all the time.
“Um... no,” said the gods.
“Gee, that's too bad. I was gonna hook them up with ultimate weapons of Primordial-slaying destruction, but since you're not rebelling and all...”
“Oh, in that case, yes. Yes, we are.”
Meanwhile, Luna, shape-shifting (and gender changing) god/goddess of the moon, managed to sweet-talk his/her/their Primordial hippy sugar mama Gaia into not fighting during the rebellion. “I'll do that thing with my tongue,” Luna promised.
“We have granted you the power to be totally awesome!” said the gods to their Exalted. “Now, go kill those Primordial assholes!”
“Aww, isn't that cute,” said the Primordials. “Those little humans think they can OH SHIT THEY'RE STABBING ME OW OW OW!” Half of them died.
“Don't kill us!” said the other half.
“Now you have to be our slaves for forever, ha ha ha!” said the gods, and then sewed them all up inside the butt of the head Primordial, Malfeas. (Malfeas got turned inside-out and sewn into his own butt.)
“You guys suck,” said the dead Primordials to the Exalted. “We hereby curse you so that you'll all turn into assholes someday!”
“Whatever,” said the Exalted.
“Well, now that that's over,” said the Unconquered Sun, who had since declared himself King of All Cosmos, “Let's go play the Games of Divinity all day! You folks we Exalted, you guys can run the world. Make sure none of our lamer siblings start acting stupid. Make sure I get plenty of prayers coming my way. Other than that, have fun!”
“Hey, I feel kinda guilty for helping kill my brothers and sisters and enslaving the rest,” said Autochthon. “I'm going to leave Creation to go brood for a few thousand years.”
“Have fun!” said the gods (and their new Exalted buddies.)
So the Exalted – particularly the Solars – ran the world. Having been cool to begin with and then granted badassitude by the God of Awesome, they proceeded to do all sorts of cool stuff, like build magical cities out of glass, make mountains float, create currency that reinforces the fabric of reality and breed dinosaurs who pissed heroin. YES, SERIOUSLY. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS IN EXALTED.
The Usurpation and the Immaculate Order
Eventually, though, the Solars got bored and jaded and full of themselves. “We killed the Primordials and made all this cool stuff. Everything we do must therefore be right. Let's run amok!” And so they did.
“This sucks,” said the Sidereals, whose job it is to make sure that the Loom of Fate, which is sort of the engine that runs Creation, doesn't crash. “At the rate they're going, they're gonna wreck Creation. Let's kill them and take their stuff!”
“Hey, we need your help,” the bronze faction Sidereals (lead by Chejop Kejak) said to the Dragon-Blooded, who were the least awesome and powerful but most numerous of the Exalted (cause theirs is heredity), who acted as lieutenants and aides and local governors and such. Secretaries, too. “Your asshole Solar bosses are gonna wreck the world. Can you help us kill them?”
“Figures they'd end up doing something like that. Sure, we'll help,” said the Dragon-Blooded.
“Come to our big dinner banquet!” said the Dragon-Blooded to the Solars. Then, when the Solars arrived, the bronze faction Sidreals blew the place up, and trapped the Solar's Essence Shards in a magic cage so that no more Solars could be created.
“Yay it worked! Now we'll erase all evidence of our existence and run the world from behind the scenes, while the Dragon-Blooded can do the dirty work!” said the Sidereals, thus proving themselves to be the only people in the setting with basic pattern recognition.
Meanwhile, the ghosts of the dead Primordials caught 13 of the dead Solar's ghosts on the way down into the Underworld. “Work for us,” they said, “and we'll give you incredible power, like what you had when you were alive!”
“What's the catch?” asked the ex-Solar ghosts.
“Well, you have to be our slaves and try to make everything, everywhere, die forever.”
“Deal! Let's get cracking!” And so were the Deathlords were created, super-powerful ghosts who want the world to die.
Back in Creation, the Dragon-Blooded had a conundrum.
"Hey, what the hell, guys?" The people said. "Those Solar and Lunar guys were fucking awesome! Why the hell did you kill them?"
"Um..." The Dragon-Blooded said as they came up with a solution. Eventually, one of them said, "...because they were DEMONS possessing mortals! Yeah, that's the trick!" And so the Immaculate Order was invented, a religion that almost everyone in the Realm follows, which paints all Celestial Exalted as evil "Anathema", demons that possess awesome people and turn them into cunning evil monsters. Which, to be fair, is technically true. Wyld Hunts (think modern special forces with magitech in a mostly standard fantasy setting) are sent out to kill Celestials and keep the status quo all status quo-y.
The Great Contagion and the Balorian Crusade
So while the Dragon-Blooded were doing a fairly good (although not nearly as impressive as the Solars) job of running Creation, the Deathlords were building a doomsday plague.
“Taste the bitter poison mixed from the ashes of our hopes and the tears of betrayal in the dark pit of our tortured souls!” said the Deathlords, presumably while wearing too much eyeliner, and unleashed their doomsday plague into Creation.
“This sucks,” said 90% of the living beings in the world, and died. Including plants.
“Hey,” said the Deathlords to the Fair Folk, who were into that sort of thing, who lived in the Wyld outside of Creation and didn't like the idea of a place that didn't just change according to their thoughts. “Just about everyone in there's dead now. If you went in, ate the souls of the survivors, and tore the place down, no one could stop you!”
“Thanks for the heads up!” said the Fair Folk, and promptly invaded in force.
“This is bad,” said one of the surviving Dragon-Blooded to her friends. “Fortunately, I just remembered that there's a sealed-off control center for an ultimate magical doomsday weapon that the Solars made for defending Creation against exactly this sort of thing. Let's go on an epic world-saving quest to get in there!”
And so they went. On the way, they came across a shitton of Lunars fighting the Fair Folk.
"Oh shit, Anathema! Let's fight!" One said. The Lunars rolled their eyes and kept fighting.
Another one said to them, "Hey, if you cover us, we can stop this whole thing, and then we'll pretend we never met you and keep feeding Creation the cock-and-bull-story about you being demons!"
"Deal." The Lunars said. And they bought the Dragon-Blooded time to get to the Imperial Manse.
Most of them died trying to get past the defenses, but eventually, two Dragon-Blooded finally made it to the control panel.
“Please insert soul to activate this device,” said the control panel.
“What does that mean?” asked one, and then the other shoved her into the soul-extraction device.
And so this unnamed Dragon-Blooded, through an act of supreme badassness/dickery, gained access to Creation's greatest magical weapons systems and used them to blow up the Fair Folk.
“I hereby declare myself the Scarlet Empress and ruler of the world,” she said.
“Nuh uh!” said some, until she blew them up. This brought lots more people over to her side, and thus was born the Realm, which is the major power in the world today.
Still, some said, “You were just a lieutenant who got lucky and stumbled across some doomsday weapons. We still have some doomsday weapons of our own, and we'll fight back!” The Scarlet Empress wanted to blow them up too, but a lot of her weapons didn't reach and she was kind of afraid of a Mutually Assured Destruction scenario, so, despite the occasional invasion attempt, they remained independent.
And so things went for over 750 years, until fairly recently, when the Scarlet Empress just up and disappeared. Having named no successor, the entire Realm is now leaderless and gearing up for civil war to see who's gonna be the next one of the Scarlet Throne. Right now, they've got this spineless bureaucrat warming the seat, but this guy is a total pussy who's basically being manipulated by whichever member of the shogunate is feeling power-hungry today. If you've seen Scrubs, imagine Ted with twenty-something Kelsos to suck up to.
Meanwhile, the Yozi known as the Ebon Dragon discovered where the Sidereals has stashed their cage full of Solar shards. They told the Neverborn -the ghosts of their brothers and sister who said Solars killed- tantalizing them with the idea of the power of the tools that destroyed them. “Hey, we can twist those and use them to create our own invincible deathknights!” The Deathlords pointed out. "We'll tell you where it is, just give us, uh, 50 of them!" the Yozi promised, planning to reap the benefits if the plan succeeded and covering their asses if it didn't. “Deal, let's go get that cage!” Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for everyone else), half the Essence Shards got loose. Now, once again, there are Solar Exalted.
And that's where the game begins.
Return of Scarlet Empress
And this is how the game can possibly end.
"Oh man! This sucks," said the Scarlet Empress. "When I die whoever takes over is going to screw up everything I worked for! What am I going to do?" She then found out that if she wrote The-Broken-Wing-Crane (which is pretty much the Necronomicon) she'd be immortal. "Aight I finished the Necronomicon! Now I'm immortal!"
"Sucker!" Said the Yozi known as the Ebon Dragon, as he dragged the Scarlet Empress off to Hell. There he brainwashed her with tentacles as his slave. He then said to the other Yozi "I've got a plan to get us out of here, any of you in?"
"Damn skippy!" said Malfeas.
"Affirmative," said She Who Lives In Her Name.
"Whatever," said Cecelyne.
"It's not like I've got anything better to do," said Adorjan.
The Ebon Dragon told his plan to his conspirators which amounts to: 'take the Akuma and Green Sun Princes to the four corners of Creation and fuck shit up!' Meanwhile Realm has a civil war, at least until the Scarlet Empress came back "I'm back and here to stay, mwahahahahahahahahahaha!" said the Scarlet Empress.
"Hmm, something's not right" said Chejop Kejak. So he called all the Sidereals together to try and assassinate her. It doesn't work and Chejop dies. Then back in Heaven Akuma, Green Sun Princes, and their Abyssal allies kill the Unconquered Sun (also possibly Luna and the Five Maidens.) This turned out to be less than good as now all the Exalted are Maximum OverExalted and make their pre-Incarna-death forms look like children with very flimsy sticks. Back in Hell the Ebon Dragon marries the Scarlet Empress breaking him out of Hell. "So long suckers!" he said betraying the Yozi.
"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!" said the Yozis still in Hell and then proceeded to commit demon genocide.
Back on Creation the Apocalypse and Ragnarok are happening at the same time, the Exalted gather mighty armies to fight the forces of the Ebon Dragon in a mighty battle, and the Scarlet Empress dies of an incurable condition called a Daiklave to the chest. The Ebon Dragon is defeated, the day is saved, and everyone lives happily ever after. Except for the part where the Ebon Dragon is now in hiding unless you killed him; in that case he's now a Neverborn. Speaking of the Underworld there are a lot more ghosts in there for the Deathlords and Neverborn to take advantage of. Also more of Creation possibly was taken by the Wyld via the Fair Folk, the remaining Yozis are still trapped in Hell and now know they can get out and the fact the world is a much bigger mess and in more disarray than it was before. So Huzzah?
The Solar's main themes are 'excellence' and 'rulership'. Solar Exalted were created by the Unconquered Sun, King of the Gods, to lead the other Exalted, and to rule the world. Most of their low-level powers are normal human abilities turned up to 11, like simply being impossibly good at sneaking, or fighting, or persuasion. Their high-power abilities are normal human abilities turned up to OVER NINE THOUSAAAAND!!! A mortal blacksmith can make a sword using iron and a hammer and forge--a Solar craftsman can take a heap of hematite, and wring a sword out of it with their bare hands, and it'll be a masterfully made one, too. A mortal can survive, at least for a little while, in a hostile environment, like a raging snowstorm. A Solar with the right Charms can survive being at the bottom of the ocean, or inside an erupting volcano. A mortal can use a sword to parry a sword-strike. A Solar can parry an angry Primordial hitting them with a mountain range. And so on. Solars also excel at inspiring and persuading others. Or, to be less polite, only the Fair Folk come anywhere close to their skill at being dicks.
Lunar Exalts are the chosen of Luna. After the Terrestrials murdered all the Solars, they then moved on to their second in command Lunar servants. Fortunately for the children of the moon, they had always been good with stealth and survival in the wilderness, unfortunately for them the Dragon Bloods were a very organized and driven genocidal force. The Lunars had no choice but to move into the borderlands between the Wyld and Creation and try to plan their resistance in secret. However the Wyld is not a nice place and the borderlands can mutate even Exalted with its touch. Thus three things have happened: The Lunars have taken to ritually tattooing themselves with moonsilver, the normal 5 caste system has been simplified into the Full Moon, No Moon, and Changing Moon castes, and almost all of them have acquired bestial traits either through their devotion to Luna or the Wyld mutations. Ergo Lunar Exalts are a race of furry demigods. But one should always remember what power the Exalted wield, telling a lion-man of the Full Moon to "yiff in hell" is almost always a horrible idea as he can rip you and thousands like you to pieces without even trying. The Lunars have the unique "Meerkat Steals The Spotlight Prana", which makes any Real Life conversation about Exalted eventually evolve into a discussion about Lunar Exalted, as, pre-3e, they were by far the most interesting Exalt (except maybe the Fair Folk, below).
The Sidereals are the Chosen of the Maidens. To cover up their role in the Usurpation they broke the universe a little, and now everyone keeps forgetting that they exist. If they want to be remembered, they can use Resplendent Destinies, but then people remember the Destiny and not the person. If a certain Destiny is inconvenient or widely hated, the Sidereal can drop it and use another. In other words, Sidereals are anonymous 4chan users, and Resplendent Destinies are tripcodes.
These guys are the Men in Black and the CIA of Exalted. They live and work in the coolest place evar (Heaven) and are sent on missions to make sure everything in Creation is Working as Intended, "by any means necessary". Not surprisingly, Siderals are notorious for being lying, cheating, backstabbing Magnificent Bastards by the people who can manage to remember them.
They are also more crazy, but less powerful than the Solar exalted, when fighting. A battle with a Sidereal can result in you turning into a mountain, your opponent turning into a river, and then the two of you doing battle with the concept of love as a weapon. Sidereal Martial Arts are the pinnacle of kung-fu, and instead of emulating facets of Creation, they make Creation a facet of the Martial Art. This lets them punch people so hard they turn into ducks (it makes marginally more sense in context). Sidereals are also the only Exalts capable of manipulating the Loom of Fate directly, and are tasked with making sure it doesn't break down.
By twisting the Solar Exalted Essences in a Monstrance of Celestial Portion, the Neverborn managed to create the Abyssal Exalted. Abyssal Exalted don't suffer from the Great Curse, but instead suffer if they act too nice to people. They are also kept on a short leash, since the dead Primordials aren't exactly pleased with the Exalted. Generally an Abyssal has two choices in life, be the grand villain or attempt to redeem themselves. Both suck for obvious reasons.
Abyssal Exalted charms are largely mirrors of Solar Charms with a darker aspect. As a general thing, where the Solar Exalted gain bonuses, the Abyssal Exalted force penalties on their foes. Their magical material is Soulsteel, the forged souls of ghosts who live in constant pain (and moan and stuff too). They generally fall into one of a few categories; Emo dicks, giggling psychotic mass murderers, devoid of all redeeming qualities, and CRAAAAAAAWLING IIIIIIIIIIIIIN MY SKIIIIIIIIIIIN. There is a part of their soul that is still a Solar and it keeps reminding them of all the bad shit they do, and lots of them use it to be even more emo.
Fortunately, if they run into their Lunar Bondmate, they don't HAVE to suffer if they act too nice to him/her/it and/or those around him/her/it, and if they DO get to the "redemption" stage (BIIIIIG if), they don't have to worry about that pesky Great Curse anymore.
Unless, of course, their player took a look at the way that the Abyssals' development paths basically boil down to either 'devoted slave of the biggest dicks in existence' (which not everyone really wants to be) or 'the Abyssal whose one goal in life is to stop being an Abyssal' (which kind of misses the point) and said, "Fuck that noise, I'm going to be the biggest baddest ass in the underworld and the most horrifying thing in existence, no-one's going to tell me what to do, and it's going to be freaking AWESOME and metal and shit!" and proceeded to rewrite the rules until they could do just that.
Interestingly, this last part seems to be something that Third Edition seems to be running with. Abyssals are no longer slaves to their Deathlord, and are allowed as much free will as they desire to exert, because speculation indicates that Abyssals also no longer have a delete button (A monstrance) that their Deathlord can press if they start thinking too much. Additionally, there is nothing indicating any longer that Abyssals must kick puppies in their spare time to avoid becoming murder nukes. Much of their fate is speculation, but the direction that WW seems to be taking is to make them much more accessible as player characters in 3e than they were in 2e, where everyone pretty much universally agreed they were completely shitty to play. An Abyssal character is probably still not going to be building any orphanages, but at least he's no longer required to arbitrarily burn them down. Abyssals are also no longer required to genocide everything in their path for no reason other than Muh Death, as the Chivalry of Death replaces this compulsion with the imperative to "spread the influence of death to the living", a concept that is very open for interpretation (You can still do shit the old way, which makes people fear death and react with horror, but you can also cultivate positive interaction with the dead as well) since it now states that death itself is not the goal, but how much death influences the living mentally and emotionally.
Terrestrials, also known as Dragon-Blooded, have a fitting name. They are the Exalts of the Five Elemental Dragons, souls of the Primordial Gaia. This gives them the ability to kill stuff with fire or their personal equivalent.
Since Terrestrials are the current bosses in Creation (with some secret aid from the Sidereals), their empire is the biggest single nation in the world and their state religion proclaims them to officially be the Best Thing Ever, they can freely go around and strut their stuff without being decried as Anathema, a term they invented themselves so that no other Exalts could strut their stuff. This in turn has a tendency to cause them to be enormous assholes. Also, when they use their magic a lot, they are liable to start burning or cause storms or other stuff that's less than safe for innocent bystanders.
The Terrestrials are soldiers. Like, all of them. They lean towards hierarchy, and even if not all of them fight, all of them could, and probably would if they were asked, contribute to a war effort. And the Realm is pretty much always at war in some area. Funny how that turns out.
Life in Dragon-Blooded society is competitive and merciless. To prepare for this, their training as soldiers and politicians starts as soon as they can speak and is so brutal that many don't survive to maturity even without considering the occasional assassination attempt. The end product is sort of a Sidereal-lite flavour of badass, particularly the ones that decide to become
Shaolin Immaculate monks.
Terrestrials take strength in numbers, and since their Exaltation is the only one that is inherited (Dragon-Blooded, remember?), family is very important to them. From this follows that the production of new family is also very important to them, so if a Terrestrial isn't trying to kill you, he's probably trying to sleep with you. Even if he's gay.
robotsAutobots. They work for Autochthon, also called The Great Maker, who is one of the last free Primordials and has a bunch of people living in cities built inside of him. He's got Primordial robot cancer that's called Gremlin Syndrome, The setting is half "Void tainted"(no relation to the Underworld) or infected by Gremlin Syndrome, and the other half varies between Steampunk to Cyberpunk. (Void-tainted Alchemicals are called Apostates, but they're only really comparable to Decepticons if all Decepticons, ever, eventually go into gleeful rampages of slaughter) As Alchemicals get more powerful, they get more and more like giant, inhuman robots until they turn into living cities.
Alchemicals are the only Exalted who require a soul that has demonstrated heroics worthy of Exaltation in many past lives. Given what's required to become one. Aside from that, then it could be worth noticing that Autochthon, being the guy who invented Exaltation, essentially made Alchemicals as prototypes for all the other Exaltations. Orichalcum Alchemicals for Solars, Moonsilver for Lunars and so on.
Even Abyssal Exalted are covered by the Soulsteel Caste, making you wonder if he anticipated death-themed Exaltations... Retconned in Second Edition, Abyssals weren't planned for and resonate with both Orichalcum and Soulsteel, but the question remains for what Autocthon planned to do with them, as well as Adamant Alchemicals that do not fit anywhere, and the later Infernal Exalted don't match any Alchemicals either. On the other hand, said Infernals resonate with ALL of the Alchemical Castes - whether it's because they're proto-Primordials or SCIENCE!/MAGIC!/EXALTED! is up for debate.
The result of the Yozi's deal with the Neverborn to steal them some Solar Exaltations, the Infernal Exalts are tasked with turning Creation into Hell so that the Yozi can escape their prison. This is easier said than done because, like their Abyssal cousins, literally every other faction in existence thinks this is a terrible idea. Infernal charms are actually their Yozi's charms, and thus follow strict thematic grouping. When an Infernal develops a custom charm their Yozi learns it as well, which allows individual Infernals to change their Yozi over time. They are also slowly becoming Yozis in their own right over time, though they have the potential to be far more awesome Primordials than the original Primordials ever were.
Infernal Exalted is a collective term used to refer to two types; Akuma and Green Sun Princes. Akuma are the result of the classic Faustian bargain, selling their soul and free will for unstoppable power. Green Sun Princes get the same powers, except they still have the option of flipping the bird at this whole Reclamation thing and running off to get coked out of their minds, and since Akuma don't have free will you'll usually be playing as the latter.
Some people will try to tell you that if you try to play an Infernal who is also a fundamentally decent character, you are doing it wrong. Those people are idiots. No one says you have to put heroes in an elaborate death trap, explain your plans to them at length, and then leave with a hearty evil laugh to bleed off Torment. The head of a major crime syndicate works just as well. Additionally, the potential to become an Über-primordial means that slipping the leash and gaining 'redemption' places you in the position of absolute power. You can become Armageddon, destroyer of all, Genesis, creator of worlds, or Über Gaia, mother/father/progenitor of everything. Dickhead, dispassionate weeder, or eternally-loving-and-benevolent Cthulu, those monikers become meaningless when you can make your soul/imagination a REALITY IN OF ITSELF.
Seriously though, check with your storyteller first. The fluff for these guys is positively fucked from being written by two different teams of dudes that had zero contact with each other and very different ideas of what to do with the archetype. Naturally, that means that DMs are divided into armed, angry camps over the "right" way to play/run an Infernal campaign, and if he wants to use them one way, then let him use them that way. It might be in your best interests to pick one of the more traditionally "heroic" kinds of Exalt if he wants them to be child-raping murderers rather than screwed-up dudes with many possible motivations and flaws. And even if he does let you run the way you want, nobody likes the guy who won't stop whining about how hard it is to be misunderstood all the time. Remember: being an Infernal is fun. It feels good. It's like being the centerpiece of a heavy metal album cover, whether you're trying to be a hero or not.
We don't know much about these ones. They've gotten scattered mentions in the second-to-last book of second edition, have some sort of interest in body parts, and are tied to the lands of the dead. They're also called "Chernozem", chosen of the black earth. Their Aspects apparently include Blood, Marrow, Flesh, Breath and Soil.
They are on a quest to learn about their Humanity.
And we're going to keep on waiting, since a new edition just got announced and it'll probably be years before they receive an official sourcebook.
Based on tentative things released with the Kickstarter, Liminals are the result of people trying to use rituals to bring back the dead (something impossible in Exalted). The Dark Mother, a strange being who lives somewhere in the Underworld meets the conductor of the ritual halfway and instead creates a whole new soul inside the corpse, which is the Exalt. Liminal Exalts are tasked by her with keeping restless spirits bound and down, but can give her the finger and do their own damn thing (unlike Abyssals). They can collect and replace body parts to modify their skills, taking the legs of a legendary dancer, the arm of a swordsman, or the tongue of a master storyteller and making these abilities their own. Additionally, as long as a Liminal's brain is intact and they can access most of their original body's matter, they can recover from any injury.
Apparently at some point a Sidereal looked up from his endless paperwork, realized saving the fundaments of reality every day was something that just wasn't going to end, and said WELL FUCK THAT and wandered off. He then proceeded to--in ascending order of badassitude, and perhaps sequentially--quit his job, declare war on heaven, and then recruit an entire type of Exalted to help, and they now regard him as their collective boss. They have some sort of crazy internal alchemy and have a miniature version of the machine that keeps reality running inside each one, thanks to colonies of pattern spiders that live in their spines. Drow, eat your hearts out.
And like the Liminals, that's about all we know until their hardback comes out.
Discount Exalted. Basically, every god has the capacity to carve out some of their own power and then give it to a mortal as a permanent upgrade. This would probably result in all humanity being Exalted in short order given how literally every blade of grass has a god and everyone wants their own action figure, were it not for the Law of Diminishment-if you're going to make something that's going to be great and perhaps eternal, you have to permanently give it some of your own power. Hell, the first time the Sun set was when he made the Solars, and that was just stamping his name on the things Autocthon already made! This is often more than what lesser gods can take and what greater gods, being dicks, are willing to give up, hence why they're saved for emergencies. Once that happens though, they each get a custom Charmset, for a personal style of kicking ass.
And you guessed it, that's all we're gonna know until the hardback.
Creations of the Primordials. The Gods were meant to maintain Creation while their masters played the Games of Divinity. That didn't turn out so good.
These are the strongest deities in the setting by dint of their celestial nature, and led the other Gods into rebellion against the Primordials. They don't do much now except rubber stamp paperwork and maybe say hi to new Exalts every now and then, being utterly addicted to the Games of Divinity.
The Unconquered Sun
The Unconquered Sun, Ignis Divine, king of kings, lord of Yu-Shan and Chief God of War, is the greatest of the gods in Exalted, he is the God of Perfection. He is usually depicted as a shining four-armed warrior bearing in each hand a symbol of the virtues he exalts: a shield for temperance, a spear for valor, a branch for compassion, and a horn for conviction. The Solar Exalted are his Chosen, and he is the chief deity of the Dragon Kings. He's actually a pretty cool guy who has to make an effort to repress being compassionate, temperate, holding to his convictions, or being valorous. What that adds up to is a god who will always protect the innocent, never back down from a challenge, and will always hold true to his convictions...Or at least that used to be the case. When the Solars started going crazy, he had a nervous breakdown and refused to leave the Jade Pleasure Dome in heaven where the Games of Divinity are kept. Now he's just as addicted to the GoD like all the other Incarnae, and has become just as detached from Creation as the Primordials he overthrew. The burnout from being ranked ten in every virtue isn't helping. Meanwhile, the celestial bureaucracy that he designed to revolve around himself and his Incarnae buddies grows increasingly corrupt without his oversight. He's actually SO powerful that his shadow is, in and of itself, a god. Has a specialty in 'riding' Luna and Gaia, although the girls he keeps trying to marry are the Five Maidens.
Luna is either intensely cunning or utterly mad, or perhaps both. Some say she is a Fair Folk noble. Like the Wyld, she is malleable able to take whatever form pleases her. The Lunar Exalted are her Chosen, and she is Gaia's lover (but so is just about everyone else).
Luna is a shapeshifter, which explains the Lunars' entire shtick, but doesn't have any limits on what she can turn into. Gender isn't a thing for Luna and it's not unheard of for Luna to be portrayed as a guy (protip. if you have a portrait of the Incarna and there's a silver-haired dude, that her). Out of all the incarnae, Luna is the least affected by the games and she actually takes the time to visit each Lunar as they exalt. Luna doesn't have a true form but her most common forms include but are not limited to a bow wielding huntress, a male traveler dressed entirely in white, a pregnant woman, a pregnant man, a sorceress with a tiara that keeps the Terrifying Secrets Gods Were Not Meant To Know from destroying her mind, and a knife wielding, half naked, wild woman that is apparently the greatest predator in creation.
In order to create Luna they had to stuff all the other moon gods in the Jar of Things that Can Not Exists and have them fight to the death. What popped out was Luna who promptly decided to whisper sweet nothings to UC and seduce Gaia.
The Five Maidens
Originally created to service the Loom of Fate, these Five Maidens are likely most enigmatic of the Incarnae. The Five Maidens are, together, second in power only to the Unconquered Sun and about equal to Luna. Their Chosen are the Sidereal Exalted, champions and guardians of fate. Okay people, mostly, though they keep running into... problems. For instance, actually using their powers to look into the future locks it in immutably into place, for good or ill, so they don't like doing it.
The Five Maidens are:
- Mercury, the Maiden of Journeys
- Venus, the Maiden of Serenity
- Mars, the Maiden of Battles
- Jupiter, the Maiden of Secrets
- Saturn, the Maiden of Endings
Also known as the Celestial Bureaucracy, they are, surprise surprise, the bureaucrats of Heaven. They fill out paperwork, kiss up to their bosses after work and try to avoid anything that resembles real work. They are assigned to Departments that manage Creation-wide phenomena, such as Dreams, Fate, Weather and Mammals. They avoid the Sidereals as much as possible.
Like the name says, they live in Creation. For various reasons, they loathe the Celestial Bureaucracy. Their purview (and power) is more limited than the Celestial gods, such as a city or a specific type of tree. Their proximity to mortals means that they're the gods most likely to bully them, but also the ones most likely to cut a deal with.
Elementals are terrestrial spirits devoted to ensuring a small, local purview functions properly. They are also arranged into the Elemental Courts. There are five categories of Elementals (Air, Earth, Fire, Water and Wood) and numerous subdivisions there in. While numerous, each Elemental is a unique sentient being and has its place in Fate. Most Elemental beings are noticeably drawn from Earth mythology. (e.g. dragons, thunderbirds, ifrit).
Little Gods are the barely-aware deities of common objects. They interact with other little gods behind the scenes and generally ensure that things work properly. For example, a lumberjack goes to fell a tree: The axe's little god informs the tree's little god that it should probably fall down now. Usually it will, and the Loom of Fate makes a note of the fact and everything continues on its merry way. Other times, the tree doesn't fall (or fall in the right direction, or falls, say, purple) and the Bureau of Destiny might dispatch a Sidereal to figure out what the problem is.
The Primordials made Creation from the infinite possibility of the Wyld. They are beings beyond measure, and composed of many subsidiary souls. They are defined by their Third Circle souls, and most importantly by their Fetich Soul (though it might be that they define their souls). During the Primordial War, those who lost all of their Third Circle souls died and became the Neverborn, while those who survived with some intact became the Yozis.
Slain during the Primordial war, they fell through the fabric of Creation and left Shadowlands in their wake. As they conceived of a state of 'not being', Oblivion was born. Similarly, their unconscious thoughts created the Underworld, now more static and unchanging to fit their ideals. Like all ghosts, the Neverborn have fetters to Creation and were unable to truly fall into Oblivion. In fact, as they created the world, they have the strongest fetters of all undead. They realized that the only way to achieve their goal of true death was to destroy their fetters, all of Creation. At first, they were more fearful of the Exalted than anything and half-asleep besides the fact. When the Black Nadir Concordat intruded into their tomb-cities and stole the secrets of Necromancy, they were roused to wakefulness and incredibly angry. Though dead, the Neverborn are still incredibly powerful and command hosts of Abyssal Exalts, Deathlords, Hekatonkhires, and Spectres.
Remember Tolkien's description of Sauron's fate at the end of Lord of the Rings? That's the Neverborn. The tragedy isn't that they're "dead", because beings that huge can't actually die - the very concept of Death is beyond them since they didn't build Creation to handle them dying. The tragedy is that they're so obsessed with something they've already lost that they can't look past it. They're all caught in a permanent, inescapable angst-loop, and if any of them could just sit up and notice they could abandon their forms and go back to the Wyld. But instead, they sit and spiral further into their "we got our asses handed to us and now our favorite toy is gone" drain-circling, and the psychic emanation of their collective regret has created an entire Underworld for similarly-resonant souls to live out their own miserable pathos.
Unlike the Yozi, and unlike the truly Dead, the Neverborn are simply incapable of noticing anything that might free them from their eternity of navel-gazing. They have nothing left but self-hatred, and the desire to see everything else wind up even more screwed than they were.
No wonder the Ebon Dragon likes them so much.
Those Primordials who survived the Primordial War were shoved inside the butt of their General/King, Malfeas (who was turned inside out and shoved into his own butt!). They then swore many oaths, some known only to the Unconquered Sun, for they are engraved into the haft of the Orichalcum spear he wields. The Yozis feel nothing but anger for their betrayal and diminution at the hands of the Exalted and the Gods, and plot to return the favour. The Yozi known as the Ebon Dragon (the Primordial responsible for the concept of Opposition: he created honesty so he could be dishonest, loyalty so he could be treacherous, and virtue so he could be its antithesis. In order to talk to you he has to turn himself into exactly what you personally most despise and fear. Not a nice guy!) has been tasked by his peers to find a way to escape from their prison. Which has been going roughly as well as you might expect.( dude, he's the embodiment of assholery. You really gonna trust this fucker?) An unknown number of Yozi Cults also flourish in Creation, aiming to learn demonic practices and perhaps ultimately bring the true masters of Creation back to their world.
It's worth noting that those oaths mean that unlike the Neverborn, the Yozis can't act too openly to fuck up Creation, else they get called before the Incarnae to account for their actions. What happens next is likely... unpleasant.
An Akuma is a mortal or Exalt who has been granted a measure of power by an Yozi, but essentially becomes a puppet of that Primordial, devoid of free will. While this sounds like a horrible trade, the Yozi are very convincing even when they aren't just lying about it and some people are incredibly power-hungry. The first Akuma was a Solar Exalted, and the Yozi eagerly seek to turn more Exalted into Akuma. The Green Sun Princes (read: Infernal Exalted), the 50 Solar Shards altered by the Yozis, are not Akuma, though there are enough similarities that the two frequently get confused.
The lower souls of the Yozis are called Demons now. Thanks to the terms of the Yozis' surrender, they can be summoned into Creation and ordered around. This is difficult for mortal occultists, since Demons can be very willful, but prepared Exalted sorcerers usually don't have too much of a problem with this. There are specific astrological condition required. For example, the strongest ones, Third Circle Demons, can only be summoned during a five day window called Calibration once a year. First Circle Demons are numerous and interchangeable, while Second and Third Circle Demons are unique.
Demons aren't, unlike the D&D version, naturally depraved and evil. They are, however, the products of a nightmarish culture created, ruled by, and located inside of a number of beings that are almost as unnecessarily assholish as they are bugfuck nuts. They may be capable of moral choice like humans, but that doesn't automatically made them good people either. Unless you're a Sidereal with the charm that lets you essentially put them into the Witness Protection Program for services rendered, tread lightly.
Primordials (Who aren't dead or imprisoned)
Autochthon was the Primordial who created much of the technology and industry of Creation. Including the Loom of Fate that enforces causality in creation. He was not well regarded or well-treated by his peers and resented them greatly. During the Primordial War, he sided with the Gods and helped arm their Exalted. After the War, when asked to put a geas on his Mountain Folk, he worried the Exalted would turn on him next. Gathering up his loyal followers he departed Creation for Elsewhere, sealing the way behind him with the Seal of Eight Divinities.
Gaia sat the war out, thanks to Luna's insistence. The Five Elemental Dragons are her creations, as of third edition it is unclear if they are her subsouls or just spirits she made. She is not often spoken of, and seems to have no agenda beyond leaving most of herself behind in heaven and then running around the wyld looking for 'answers'.
The Dwarves of the Exalted setting, also called the mountain folk (because they live in mountains). They are divided into three castes, the Artisans, the Workers, and the Warriors. The Artisans are the leaders while the workers work and supply the Warriors who are in a constant fight against the Darkbrood. They were originally created by Autochthon when he found some of the Rakasha trapped in blocks of Jade. He then formed them into the first Jadeborn. Eventually they evolved into a caste system with some of the workers and warriors having an exalted like tendency called enlightenment. The Jadeborn provided many of the wonders of the first age and had such technology that they were cursed by the unconquered sun to never roam the surface of Creation without being lead by a member of the exalted. Jadeborn Charms come in five Patterns: Foundation, Artisan, Worker, Warrior and Enlightened.
The Dragon Kings are large lizard-like beings of great power, resembling dinosaurs. The Dragon Kings are sworn in allegiance to the Unconquered Sun, their creator. Before the time of the Exalted, the Dragon Kings ruled Creation and the mortals who dwelt there, but as the methods of Exaltation were crafted and improved they become obsolete in the gods' eyes. Think inca and aztec style biped dinuars. The Unconquered Sun used them as powerful servants to his chosen whom they served faithfully, honoring their Exalted brethren. After the First Age ended in war and disease, few survived. Their numbers grow slowly but steadily in the Second Age, though the once great Dragon Kings remain hidden in the furthest corners of Creation. Their most powerful stronghold would be the Aztec-flavoured Rathess, an ancient home filled with a variety of powerful artifacts made by the Dragon Kings in the glory days of the First Age. There are four types of Dragon Kings, each living in a direction of Creation; the graceful flying Pterok (North), the nimble and lithe Raptok (East), the powerful and loyal Anklok (South), and the clever amphibious Mosok (West).
The Fair Folk are creatures composed of raw Essence, and inhabit the Wyld – the place that exists between the ordered Creation and pure Chaos. Inhuman and beautiful beings born from chaos, they feed on the dreams and aspirations of the inhabitants of Creation in order to give them strength and form in their own intermediate realm. (In other words, they EAT PEOPLE'S SOULS.) In essence, they are the "kissing cousins" of the Primordials; their territory having been pushed back when the Primordials formed Creation. They prey upon the dreams of mortals and do a brisk trade with the Guild (a powerful economic organization in Creation) in slaves... well, the souls of slaves.
The Raksha are divided into four castes: Diplomats, who favor the Staff Grace and the virtue of Conviction; Entertainers, who favor the Cup Grace and the virtue of Compassion; Warriors, who favor the Sword Grace and the virtue of Valor, and Workers, who favor the Ring Grace and the virtue of Temperance. Noble Raksha belong to two of the four castes, favoring the graces and virtues of both. There is also a fifth Grace, the Heart Grace, which is associated with identity and the trait of Willpower. Graces are differing outlets for the use of Essence and are similar to the suits of tarot. The most powerful of the Fair Folk are the Unshaped. Unlike the Raksha, the Unshaped are unable to survive within Creation for extended periods of time, each Unshaped is actually a symbiotic cluster of Fair Folk consisting of a single "guiding intelligence" and one or more "subsidiary intelligences" with no true form.
Being born from a place of fluid reality that resembles a Loony Tunes skit as much as it does creation, fair folk have difficulty functioning like "real" people. For one thing they suffer from "calcification", their natural unshaped forms are incompatible with creation's stagnant, static existence. Even when they take on a semi-real shape (as a Rakasha) they bleed essence while in creation and must feed on dreams and souls to keep themselves alive. Secondly a fair folk's emotions and virtues are entirely artificial, represented by their graces. When their phony identities break down they suffer from 'Bedlam'. This can have effects such as losing the ability to comprehend that other people aren't just figments of his imagination (conviction) or forgetting that he is capable of inflicting harm on others (valor).
Ever since the Neverborn's death broke the cycle of reincarnation, those who die with their business unfinished turn up as Ghosts in the Underworld. Ghosts have access to what they were buried/burned with (their grave goods) and are able to channel essence and learn ghost charms, called Arcanoi. Ghosts who settle their business can pass into Lethe as they should have and reincarnate. Those who give into the Whispers of Oblivion (usually by wandering the Labyrinth) turn into crazed Spectres intent on spreading the word of Oblivion by force. Their third option is to toss themselves into the Mouth of Oblivion and utterly cease to exist.
Ghosts of 13 First Age Solars who died during the Usurpation, they took the Neverborn's offer of real, ultimate power in exchange for promising to drop all of Creation into Oblivion. They are rather bitter and psychologically maladjusted from the Usurpation. Each one is pretty unique in their psychosis and plots. Some are making more headway than others. The Dowager's Great Contagion managed to kill 90% of all life in Creation, while the Mask of Winters has captured Thorns. Others have suffered rather embarrassing setbacks, and are dealt with harshly by their Neverborn masters. As may be expected, they like to fight and argue with each other a lot, which makes even some of their greatest successes a comedy of errors. The Great Contagion, as previously mentioned? Yeah, the only reason it only killed most of all life in Creation was because two other Deathlords, The Eye and Seven Despairs and The First and Forsaken Lion, went out and invited the fair folk to invade Creation, which ended up uniting all of Creation against a common cause, and gave the world the strength and focus to endure the plague, plus it screwed enough with creation's reality that the plague stopped working right. The other thing that seems to get in the way them succeeding are, ironically, the Neverborn themselves. As they Neverborn hate the state they are in, they hate it when the Deathlords don't preform to total perfection and brutally punish them for it. The First and Forsaken Lion, for example, is actually waiting to come up with a plan because he wants to be sure the plan will work out of fear it might not and getting punished like when he displeased the Neverborn in the past.
- Bishop of the Chalcedony Thurible:** possibly the craziest Deathlord(though the Dowager and Eye and Seven Despairs are giving him a run for his money), convinced that he can convince Creation to murder itself through pure rhetoric. Currently running a rather large suicide cult based in Creation's equivalent of the Gobi Desert. Might actually be onto something, because going on genocidal killing sprees generally just causes souls to reincarnate rather than become ghosts or fall into Oblivion. Also, his battle form is covered in dicks, absolutely no explanation is given (might be a commentary on sex abuse in the clergy, but he's always been characterized as too crazy to really take an interest in procreation or understand human biology).
- Bodhisattva Anointed by Dark Waters/The Silver Prince: undead ruler of Skullstone, an island nation known for its use of GHOST PIRATES! In all seriousness though, he's built a seemingly utopian island society based on ancestor worship and necromancy, but GASP he's really just built a dystopian soul farm that tricks its inhabitants into doing his bidding while harvesting 9/10ths of souls for smelting into soulsteel(because he's a Deathlord, therefore EVIL). He's building a giant fuck-you Creation fleet of sci-fi ships out of ghosts.
- Dowager of the Irreverent Vulgate in Unrent Veils: the Deathlord responsible for the Great Contagion(which she pulled out of a portal to an alternate universe, Exalted is weird like that). Currently running an "orphanage" populated by children she herself has orphaned, with the building's furniture being made out of the ghost's of the orphans' parents. When they reach a certain age, she either lets them go free(to have kids that she then orphans to start the cycle anew) or she kills all but the most traumatized one, smelts their souls into soulsteel, and Exalts the survivor and gives her weapons made out of her friends. Because she's crazy evil like that.
- Eye and Seven Despairs: was horribly abused by other Solars in life, currently using the Abyssal exaltations of those same Solars in a game of navel gazey torture revenge porn rather than doing his job(which he used to be rather good at). That's about the beginning and end of his canon characterization, good Storytellers usually give him other motivations though, like the whole revenge porn thing being a ploy, or a method to terrify his Abyssals into subservience.
- The First and Forsaken Lion(FaFL): Generic Sauron-esque big bad for your campaigns. Was bolted permanently to his own armor by Who Holds in Thrall for his fuckups involving the Fair Folk Invasion. Currently camping out in the southern underworld building a fuckass huge ghost army and trying to figure out a plan that doesn't cause his bosses to torture him again. Also may or may not have been brainwashed by his masters into being Tsundere for The Princess Magnificent.
- Lover Clad in Raiment of Tears: On the surfaces she's a generic "Evil is Sexy" hedonist. Deep down she's a full on nihilist who hopes to expose people to so much extreme pleasure that it leaves them emotionally burnt out and unable to enjoy *any* form of pleasure other than waiting for the sweet release of oblivion. The Bodhisattva is legit terrified of her and chose his current location in part to be as far as possible from her.
- Mask of Winters: another Generic Sauron Expy, though more active than FaFL. Main Deathlord in the games. Conquered the city of Thorns using a fortress made out of an undead giant, the Realm and the rest of Creation collectively shat a brick in reaction and are currently panicking thinking of an appropriate response. Most likely to be your Abyssal PC's shitty boss.
- The Princess Magnificent with Lips of Coral and Robes of Feathers: third biggest fuckup amongst the Deathlords after FaFL and Eye, was chased out of her own fortress by nothing more than a story about how she would be defeated(granted, it was a magic story was told by gods, but it was still a hail mary shot in the dark). Was punished by being made subordinate to FaFL (who, as mentioned before, is creepy Tsundere for her).
- Walker in Darkness: has no memory of his life as a Solar(Mask of Winters killed him using a weapon that destroyed memories back when they were still made of meat), meaning he has no grasp beyond the basic of how his own Abyssals work. Still hates Mask of Winters though, but has no idea why.
- Four other Deathlords for the storyteller to create in the above aren't good enough.
These are ghosts of Behemoths or the Neverborn's Third Circle Souls. Occasionally the Neverborn's thoughts birth a new one. Hekatonkhires are unique and very powerful beings. Imagine undead Cthulhu's zombie kidneys, as a roaming monster.
Everyone else. Mortals are unable to channel essence (unless they become sorcerers, which is no easy task and won't give them the strength to match an Exalt anyway) and thus are at a severe disadvantage. While Exalted is largely a cinematic and epic game, it is grim and gritty for Mortals. Their only real advantage is numbers. The most prominent mortals, Humans, were created by the Primordials to provide prayer (and the subsequent ambrosia and quintessence) in Yu-Shan, and nearly all Exalted are of Human stock. There are sub races of humans however some for instance are products of first age bioengineering such as the Air folk who can glide through the air on wings.
Considering all the shoutouts to Ramayana: Romance of the Three Kingdoms, or Legends of the Wulin, then it must be noted that another really big part of Exalted are its many magical martial arts that a character can learn in the game. The magical martial arts in Exalted are a key aspect of what can make a good combat character into an ungodly god-killing machine, but there are also strange and down-right weird martial arts that will let you do things that even the greatest of wuxia movie director can only dream of.
Every style tends to have a form weapon or two, a specific weapon that the style functions with - such as one-handed swords, spears, hook-swords and so on. Crunch-wise, if using a given martial art's form weapon, then that character counts as using unarmed attacks. So even if you're using a sword while fighting with Five-Dragon Style martial arts, your blade and fists blazing with elemental essence, then you will be using Dexterity+Martial Arts to hit stuff, not Dex+Melee. As a general rule, then using a form-weapon is always better than fighting bare-handed, unless its a style that doesn't allow form weapons at all, but then there's usually a reason for that...
Not all styles work while wearing armor, but the ones that don't tend to contain charms that compensate for this, either through charms that grant extra damage soak, or charms that make the martial artist really difficult to actually hit in the first place. Or if hit you just shatter because you were in fact just a [
shadow mirror clone], or you absorb the punch into the infinite depths of the ocean, or because after landing your last hit your opponent exploded into the chunkiest of salsa.
The martial arts in Exalted are tiered as follows:
Mortal Martial Arts
That's it, non-magical stuff available to everyone. Mentioned only because you need some training in these before moving on to good stuff.
Unlike the magical martial arts, then normie martial art skills are represented via dots in Brawl or Martial Arts abilities, depending on what edition you're playing in.
Terrestrial Martial Arts
Dragonblooded, being the weakest but most numerous of the exalted, can normally only learn these magical martial arts. Mechanically they don't do all that much, but they'll let even the weakest dragonblooded exalted fight the strongest of mortal men or low level demons quite effectively, parrying swords bare-handed and whatnot like a boss. This is your basic "I punch the bad guy's minion, my fists blazes with elemental power, and he dies" martial art.
It should be noted that unless its an all-DB game, no player ever really wants to touch these. Also, mortal sorcerers and other people with unlocked essence can learn these.
Celestial Martial Arts
CMAs are the most common martial arts in the game, and while blocked to Dragonblooded unless they get some special training, then everyone else usually goes for these. The effects players can gain from these martial arts are what most people will think of when thinking magical martial arts.
A good example of this from 2nd edition was Solar Hero Style, AKA [Fist of the Daystar Style], which can allow a player character to punch people so hard that they'll fly off several dozen yards and take damage if they hit stuff on the way, or throw people around like ragdolls, or kick down massive castle walls or gates with a single blow. Think Dragon Ball Z style fighting (without energy beams) and you'll only be wrong on the parts where it doesn't matter.
Of other commonly seen CMAs there are the five Celestial Dragon styles, which can reasonably easily be summon up as "Avatar the last airbender, only they kills people and spirits really damn good". Celestial Water Dragon style lets you scream a tsunami to melt faces, Fire Dragon style can let you light other people's essence on fire inside them, making them burn from within, and so on. Any Solar is wise to take heed when facing a master of any of these styles, as they can turn an otherwise unassuming Dragonblooded exalt into a major threat, very quickly.
Of course, there are also far more exotic CMAs, such as Crystal Chameleon style, which can best be described as "Ninja disco style". There's also Celestial Monkey style which has a fun little charm that lets you punch people in their virtues for extra damage (and valor is apparently rooted in the groin...), or Hungry Ghost Style which is all about soul-eating, or Rightous Devil Style which is basically gun-fu, or Silver-Voiced Nightingale Style which is basically beating people up with the power of music. If you liked Tron, then the Alchemicals have access to a martial art that is basically disc combat, but made for chainsaw discs you throw around for deadly and very messy effect.
There are loads of other styles, such Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style which is best fought in ball-gowns as a pretty princess, or Laughing wound style which best practiced by first slashing your wrists and conjuring whips of blood from the cuts. In short, there's a martial art for every kind of character concept in Exalted. Also, there's one that lets you fight with your dick (though it was invented by demon).
...and that's not to mention all the homebrew martial arts that the Exalted community has dreamt up, an example being [Orichalcum Chef Style] in case you actually want to play as an Iron Chef.
Sidereal Martial Arts
Its been mentioned earlier that there's a SMA that lets you turn people in ducks. This is true, and its not even the most impressive thing you can do in that particular style. Dragonblooded can, RAW, not learn SMAs at all, and outside of Sidereals then others need to find someone (A sidereal usually) who'll train them - this isn't something a character is supposed to develop on their own.
SMAs are best characterized when compared to CMAs. CMAs tend to deal with great might and power, while SMAs deal with more abstract concepts. Border of Kaleidoscopic Logic Style lets you punch people in their sanity, driving them mad and then fighting them inside their mind as abstract concepts. Charcoal March of the Spider style emulates the pattern spiders that run reality, meaning that you punch people in their reality. This is the "punch people into ducks" style. Citrine Poxes of Contagion Style punches you in the health, making your targets magically sick. Obsidian Shards of Infinity Style is... well...
The game describes Obsidian Shards of Infinity Style by saying "[the style] holds a mirror to Creation and breaks it" - and that putting it really mildly. Mirror clones, mirror dimensions, and being able to gleam possible different futures... this style is just weird. It also, appropriately, has a charm literally called "Shattering the Balance," and is generally seen as genuinely broken in a game where everything being fucking broken is a selling point. Several later sourcebooks took digs at it.
Of course, when it comes to weirdness few things can beat Quicksilver Hand of Dreams Style, which lets you punch people in their dreams, punch dreams out of people, and ultimately punch reality to turn it into a dream... or a nightmare. There's also Scarlet-patterened Battlefield Style, which gets really abstract since the martial artist 'punches' with units of soldiers. Yes, really. Another fun SMA is Prismatic Arrangement of Creation Style, which is almost entirely made up of form charms, but lets the martial artist punch people in their essence for various fun effects, like catching and redirecting other people's charms, or punching your way into other people people's essence to temporarily posses their bodies. This also works on inanimate objects... like Warstriders!
Basically SMAs let you punch concepts, such as love, to achieve really weird and specific effects - but they're none the less absolute nightmares to fight against. It should be noted that most SMAs are locked behind really high stat requirements, such as essence 6+, meaning that most players will NEVER get access to them. Considering how utterly devastating these martial arts are, this is not necessarily a bad thing. SMAs do make for really fun boss fights though.
All in all, magical martial arts are a cornerstone of what makes combat in Exalted fun and exiting. It turns a plain dragonblooded monk with a sword into a far more interesting and flavorful opponent, it turns a dread deathknight into a truly terrifying opponent, and it gives added flavor to player characters as they internalize the wisdom and tactics that their style informs.
The basic mechanic is a modified Storyteller System. Pools of d10s are rolled; 7,8,9 count as one success, 10 counts as two successes. Successes are scaled against target numbers at a set difficulty against non PCs/NPCs. If no successes are rolled and at least one die comes up with a 1, then the roll is a botch (catastrophe ensues).
There are a few exceptions to these rules of success, however. Some Fate-based or Shaping-based effects can reduce the number needed to get a single success from a die. These won't come up unless you pull out the relevant splatbook, though.
Stunting: A way to mechanically allow players to use Rule of Cool as a game mechanic. How does it work? A player describes how their PC does an action. Depending on the degree of description, a 1 to 3 dice bonus is given to the roll. (1 dice bonus is incredibly common, 3 dice bonuses almost never given).
- +1 Bonus - Make an effort, try to do something cool. Be brief.
- +2 Bonus - Make a cool description that fleshes out the scenery a bit. Be brief.
- +3 Bonus - Make everyone at the table give you a standing ovation. Be brief.
Did we mention that you should be brief? Well, you should.
Stunts can pretty much be done on any action, and don't necessarily have to follow the laws of physics. A good example of an athletics stunt would be the wallrunning in Prince of Persia games, while a combo in a fighting game might be a good example of a flurry stunt. But above all, make it short, snappy, and keep the flow of the game going.
Just if you're curious - The reason why they hand out bonus dice is two fold - Firstly, newly made characters tend to be a bit handicapped, being baller at the things they were made to do and pretty much not at the other stuff. So, stunting gives new characters the chance to succeed at almost anything as long as the player thinks of a pretty cool way to do it, and it teaches new players that as long as you make it feel cool your character can do anything. Secondly, prior to Second Edition, the way multiple actions were handled was by splitting dice pools, so you needed to succeed at two different (generally fairly hard) tasks with half the dice you would otherwise. Stunting helped offset that, offering you the chance to succeed at complicated things that you otherwise wouldn't be able to just because they were epic. Second Edition works a little differently, applying flat penalties to your dice pools based on the number of actions you're taking, (take two actions, first action's on -2 and second is -3; three actions, -3, -4, -5, and so on) but stunts still help to offset that somewhat.
It's a kickass system all told, that helps to bridge between the role playing and the crunch, with a real benefit for staying in character while you splat things. It takes a lot of heat off the ST to make the dice rolling seem interesting because the characters are always trying (maybe not always succeeding) to be cool, so the ST doesn't have to come up with a million different ways to say 'you punch a guy and he falls down'.
Stunts also have rewards besides dice, namely motes and Willpower; a stunt is worth twice its die value in motes, or you can take a point of Willpower for a two- or three-die stunt. Generally, (there are exceptions) motes fuel magic stuff, while Willpower fuels more mundane stuff. (meaning things that anyone can do) Running out of either one can be a death sentence, even in Exalted 2.5; stunts help keep that from happening. If a character does a stunt that also counts towards achieving their Motivation (what they want to do most of all) counts as one stunt higher, except if it is already a three dot stunt, then the character should be allowed an experience point.
Eariler editions suffered tremendously from problems of Linear Build Quadratic EXP, and the character-creation system was often mockingly regarded as a Byzantine "mini-game" in and of itself. Third edition is in development right now, and promises to be markedly different from both previous editions - by different we mean BETTER. It redid the combat engine and fixed the persistent bugbears that plagued the first and second ed, and is giving much-need attention to Lunars and a few other splats. It was also supposed to have its second and third book out three fucking years ago. Fans have taken to calling it Exalted: the Waiting. It conspicuously refuses to fix the Xp problem (with one of the devs infamously imperiously declaring, and this is a direct quote, "We have a policy not to give people bad rules just because they think they want them." Holy shit.
Fortunately, while the problem's still there, a number of core gameplay and pricing tweaks have at least made the problem less severe.
Relationship with the World of Darkness
Exalted is not part of the World of Darkness, but parts of it were conceived as a mythical prequel to the old WoD before that was moved away from. All of the major forces and types of Exalted have a less-epic equivalent in the WoD lines.
Indeed, Exalted actually was intended to be a kind of, sort of, maybe prehistory to the old World of Darkness, as evidenced by the 1st edition corebook and the Storyteller's Companion (which even referenced one of the Yozi's component souls being slain and reborn as Anthelios from Werewolf the Apocalypse), as well as numerous shout-outs from Hunter and Mage (which even directly name dropped Chejop Kejack). The unholy couple that is the Ebon Dragon and the Scarlet Empress show up in Kindred of the East. They are less evil there, which makes you wonder just what went down to mellow out the concept of dickishness incarnate.
This was downplayed in 2nd edition, but left as a perfectly serviceable option, and completely removed from 3rd edition. Rage ensued.
|World of Darkness||Exalted|
|Vampire: The Masquerade||Abyssals|
|Werewolf: The Apocalypse||Lunars (with Primordials as antagonists)|
|Mage: The Ascension||Sidereals (with Alchemicals taking some aspects of the Technocracy)|
|Wraith: The Oblivion||The Underworld and its NPCs|
|Changeling: The Dreaming||Fair Folk|
|Hunter: The Reckoning||Solars|
|Demon: The Fallen||Infernals|
- Errata and fan-made rules
- Blank Wikified Character Sheet
- Mystic Empyrean, a game with similarly epic-powered player characters.
- Archive of the old official wiki
- Unofficial Exalted wiki, mostly 1e stuff
- List of Exalted games being run.
| Solars - Lunars - Sidereals - Dragon-Blooded - Infernals - Abyssals |
Alchemicals - Liminal - Getimian - Exigents - Fair Folk
Jadeborn - God-Blooded - Mortals
|Roleplaying games made by White Wolf|
| Exalted - Human Occupied Landfill - Scarred Lands - Scion - Trinity |
World of Darkness - World of Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game