Greetings, dice fondlers! I know, I know, it’s Thursday, not Friday, so what’s the deal? The deal is that I’ll be out with other members of the Dashing Nerds at Youmacon this weekend indulging in our inner (and let’s be honest, outer) otaku. So, in the interest of keeping you a regular article, we’re going live a day early.
What does that mean for you? Well, it means that since I didn’t have quite as much time to plan, you folks are getting hit with something I’ve been keeping up my sleeve for just such an occasion. That something is one of my absolute favorite RPGs, Exalted. What is it? Well, I’m glad you asked because you’re about to get a faceful of one of most jam-packed kitchen sink settings ever. I will give you this though— it is one of the best pairings I could hope for with this being the weekend of an anime con.
So, let’s start with Exalted. Where should we begin? Should we start with the idea that the setting was originally envisioned as a pre-history to the World of Darkness setting? Should we start with the Mayan Dinosaur Sun Worshippers or the Big Damn Heroes or the Cthulhu Elves or the Dead Dreaming Gods or the Magitech Terminators or the Bull-headed God of War who reviews the day’s most interesting ambushes with his morning coffee? As you read that last sentence, I think you’ll start to understand the problems involved with dipping your toes into Exalted. The setting, while absolutely defined, is full of diverse and varied flavors. Exalted is like a buffet. You don’t have to stack your plate with every different flavor out there, and for Pete’s sake, don’t shove it all in your mouth at the same time.
Right, so, Exalted. Let’s start again. Exalted is the game where the default mode of play is you filling the shoes of a reincarnated champion of the Gods. The metaplot in Exalted is reminiscent of many different mythologies, but perhaps most accessible to readers in the West, as it heavily leans on Greek mythology.
The Game’s Creation Myth
In the beginning, Primordials come into existence and begin the task of creating… uh… Creation. The Primordials sculpt the world into the flesh of the Primordial Gaia. Once they were done, as they explored the emptiness outside of Creation, they came upon the mysterious Games of Divinity. They became so obsessed with these new Games that they created the Gods to maintain and tend to this world they had created so they could play uninterrupted. The Gods’ very beings were built so that they could not directly betray their masters, the Primordials. However, the shape-shifting Luna, the glorious Sol Invictus, the many Maidens, and the four elemental Dragons had a plan. Scheming with a rogue Primordial, they looked down among the pitiful humans who lived as slaves to the first race, the Dragon Kings, and chose champions from them. These humans, their souls invested with the shards of divinity, were given the power of the Gods. Suddenly, the Primordials, beings of unknowable shape and form, each representative of great facets of reality itself, found themselves swarmed and cut apart by these puny humans that were no more than ants to them.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Some of them died. Not the humans, the Primordials. Humans were used to dying. Primordials had never died. The first one to die became the Underworld itself and a small handful followed before the Primordials yielded. Death as a concept terrified them, and they were willing to make grand bonds to be locked away forever, bound in their own amorphous bodies.
That’s where things started going all wrong. You see, once the Primordials go away, the Gods decided THEY’D be the ones to play with the magic, mystical Games of Divinity and left the Exalted in charge. Of the various types of Exalted, the Solar became the rulers, the Lawgivers. The Lunar Exalted became their second in command, watching over the growing power and egos of the Solars for their patron Luna. The Sidereal Exalted, the Chosen of the Maidens of Fate served as the Viziers and Advisors, using their powers of prophecy to steer their kingdoms. The Dragonborn, those who were given the blood of the elemental dragons, became the soldiers who composed the armies of the Exalted. It all worked smoothly… until everyone turned into jerks.
See, the Primordials cursed everyone with a pretty nasty case of hubris and the Exalted began to turn on themselves. The Solars became tyrants, perverse and petty. The Lunars wandered the edges of the world, losing themselves in their many shapes. The Sidereals held a grand prophecy to determine the right way to proceed but foresaw only woe and decided to stage another coup. And so, with the thousands of little Gods that maintained the world of Creation, they shattered a constellation to hide in and struck out at the Solars, murdering them all and locking their souls in a hidden container so they wouldn’t reincarnate. With the Solars dead and the Lunars fleeing Creation for the shapeless chaos beyond the edges of reality, the Sidereals raised the Dragon-Blooded up as the new heroes.
This brings us to where the game’s setting starts by default. In heaven, the Sidereals manage the bureaucracy from the shadows. On Creation, the Dragon-Blooded try to hold Creation itself together. However, they’ve weathered an assault from the Fair Folk, weird chaos monsters from beyond the borders of Creation. They’ve weathered great plagues unleashed by the Exalted servants of the dead Primordials in the underworld. The Lunars are coming back from the edges of Creation leading armies mutant animal hybrid barbarians. The Primordials are sending Infernal servants to find a way to release them. The Scarlet Empress is missing. The great Shogunate is breaking apart.
And now, the Solars are returning.
The players take the role of these returning heroes of legend, immediately on the run from the rest of the world. They have all the potential to reshape Creation, to stand against the armies that seek to snuff it out. With all their hubris returning as rapidly as the rest of their strength, the Solars are the last ditch effort Creation has to stand against the tides of darkness.
And with that, I’ve already been talking about for an entire article and we haven’t even gotten to the part where we make crazy godlings or really start talking about how their powers work. However, I’ll have to save the rest of this madcap anime-inspired setting for next week. Until then, watch for ME talking to YOU from Youmacon. Oh yes, and remember to…