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  • Constructing the West in 3e

    So at some point soon in the near future, I will be running a game with Solar Exalted out in the West. I'm really excited for it! It sounds like a lot of promising changes have been made to make the West even more cool than it used to be, and reading back into Scavenger Sons got me really excited to potentially explore cultures like the Skullstone Archipelago on top of new additions, like trying to imagine what Randan is like.

    One change that has come from conversation in the Ask the Devs thread is that it sounds like the Realm only began to really establish satrapies in the West within the last century or so, through the sailing route to Wu-Jian and further in. This is a pretty significant change that I think is hugely beneficial for the West, and something that is definitely going to inform my portrayal of the relationship between the Realm and the West. A century is both a long time and hardly any time at all!

    ***

    Some topics of interest to me from looking back at the original sources are stuff like how to conceptualize The Neck, noted on the map, in Third Edition. In previous editions, it has been described as a peaceful bunch of islands where people fish and eat kelp, and they pay their tribute in cowrie shells because they have nothing else to give. The Neck doesn't get any mention in the Third Edition core, but does appear on the map. That said, this interesting tidbit is included in the economics section:

    Originally posted by Exalted Third Edition, p. 77
    COWRIE SHELLS AND STRANGER THINGS

    In the West, the red cowrie shell is used as the standard unit of value. The shells must be very fine to have much worth, and are drilled and strung together in groups of 25, 50 or 100. They’re not much valued outside of the West, but in that region, they’re worth three silver dinars to the shell, or six shells per obol.

    The Empress didn’t accept the West’s tribute in cowrie shells, but allowed the West to retain a functional means of exchange even as she stripped them of silver coinage. It is for this reason that silver is given a favorable exchange rate, and jade penalized.
    If one follows the implication, it sounds like the Neck's previous form of tribute would not work in Third Edition, so there must be other resources that they pay their tribute in. Silver could be one, it seems, among other natural resources the chieftains of tribes might be made to acquire, or the people of the Neck might be enslaved to work for.

    One change I was considering was to treat the Neck as a region rather than a single entity, and instead of having a single satrapy, it has a number of them among the islands. For instance, in this model Amphiro would be one satrap, with other islands among the Cowries also potentially being satrapies. What do you guys think of a change like that?

    Another one was, thinking of the Neck as a region, adding another island chain or two. Names for these places are still cooking, if you guys have any suggestions or places you've used in your own game, I'm all for it.

    Speakin' of... Why is it called the Neck, anyway?

    An interesting thing I came across from one of the former developers while scanning the forums, too.

    Originally posted by John Mørke View Post
    It cannot be overstated how critically important the West is to the entire economy of Creation.

    I purposefully pushed it even farther away from the Blessed Isle, and made it difficult to reach, for this very reason.
    While obviously the creative team and its interests have shifted somewhat, I am curious if anybody has some thoughts on how this might be the case. I don't want to go into kremlinology about it, so I might just take a question similar in nature to Ask the Developers, but it did seem like a cool thought.

    Another interesting one from Holden which is a great idea for an island place! Alabaster is cool enough sounding that I might have it come up in my game.

    Originally posted by Holden View Post
    The West and its cowries are a good case to look at, because a lot of the West-- the majority of the West, really-- consists of tiny little islands populated by fewer than two thousand souls in total. Often way, way fewer. Let's take the isle of Alabaster* as an example. It's a tiny little mountain poking out of the sea that has been settled since at least sometime in the Shogunate era, and is parked on a trade route so it sees ships pulling into its one harbor semi-regularly to take on water and anti-scorbutic fruits or to ride out storms. As a result the island's single town (also called Alabaster) has all kinds of loose currency rattling around in it thanks to simple trade and sailors looking to gamble, whore, drink, or buy a monkey to bring back to their ship, because that is the kind of thing sailors do (especially after the drinking part).

    Moving away from the town, there's a temple compound on the slopes of the mountain. This temple, Hanno Daira, is consecrated to the ancestor cult, and, unusually for the West, acts as a graveyard. The dead of Alabaster are hauled up the mountain and given into the care of the half-dozen monks who tend the grounds for interment and ongoing propitiation with prayers and burned incense and whatnot; or the monks are commissioned to create memorial markers for those lost at sea. Sometimes ships will pull into port and also commission for their dead to be interred at Hanno Daira as well.

    The cost of such a burial is one cowrie shell for incense and ritual, or three if there's to be actual interment and upkeep of a grave. Holy shit, that's a lot. How could poor tropical island farmers and artisans afford such a thing?

    Well, the answer is that no local resident of Alabaster would ever dream of paying money to the temple. Instead, periodically, those with folks buried up there will head up the mountain with a couple of goats, or a wheel of cheese that they made; or a carpenter will go up and see to the temple roofs, or, ha ha, foolishly, it turns out we brewed too much beer for the festival, and so here's our five excess barrels, you guys take 'em, we TOTALLY can't drink this much. It's not a barter exchange because the goal is not to ever square up accounts. If someone were to simply pay the temple the value of the services rendered, that would cancel the ongoing relationship between the temple and that member of the community-- it would say "okay, we're quits now." That is not how a community acts or behaves. The constant ebb and flow of debt ties the place together.
    If people have ideas for individual islands like this, please share them! They make great locations to drop into a game, though I'm not sure where I'd put Alabaster in my game just yet.
    Last edited by Leetsepeak; 10-30-2017, 12:13 AM.


    Leetsepeak's Ex3 Homebrew Hub - Hub of homebrew for Exalted 3rd Edition that I've made.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Leetsepeak View Post

    While obviously the creative team and its interests have shifted somewhat, I am curious if anybody has some thoughts on how this might be the case.
    ​I think it's mostly about spices. In a similar manner to real history, it's something that can reliably compel major investments of capital that can expect decent returns, in a way that promotes continuous circulation of money and seeking ways to increase the supply.


    I have approximate knowledge of many things.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Leetsepeak View Post
      Speakin' of... Why is it called the Neck, anyway?
      The Neck is where the three Archipelegos meet; Wavecrest, Coral, and Skullstone.

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      • #4
        Ahh I remember that quote, I was asking about currency.

        West is important to the economy for reasons why places like India and Malaysia were valued by Europe, exotic goods and spices that are hard to reach and thus bring the value of their goods.

        It was called the Neck because it was a concentration between the northern and southern island, and it was the specific narrow region. But yeah the Neck isn't a nation it is specifically a region. Like how say how the British Raj compiled several india and india adjacent nations together, or Scandinavia isn't one country. Its far enough out were you can have comics like that one were the Immaculate Monk gets his ass kicked and his chum says let it go its China Town... I mean the Neck. To be fair most of my history with the game I thought the Neck was a huge portion of the West, till I saw another map point out it was a specific small region of island clusters. But the point is you don't have to go by a specific number of islands you see on the map, more islands exist, the map is specifically low detailed in frontier regions so add your own. For instance if Wu Jian wasn't such an important port it wouldn't even pop up on the map, the fact that it is detailed is to kind of show how major say realm maps would make a point to indicate it.


        It is a time for great deeds!

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        • #5
          It's primarily called "the Neck" because the Empress referred to it as such once, while likening the West as a whole to a serpent, and it just sorta caught on from there.

          I imagine they also make tribute in coral; I was pretty sure they mentioned such in Compass: West. It also wouldn't surprise me if they were at least one of the sources of venomous clams that make one of the more potent forms of Maiden Tea.

          (In the Okeanos game I've been running, there's also a pretty significant population of God-Blooded running around. Most lack notable supernatural powers, but it nonetheless made a decent cover option for the PCs starting out if they didn't want to reveal themselves as Anathema.)
          Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 10-30-2017, 06:10 AM.

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          • #6
            But I have a ton of islands, when I get the time I will post some here. I love the WEST! It was my first Exalted setting, 2nd ed, and now my latest in 3rd ed!


            It is a time for great deeds!

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            • #7
              So is traveling around the West suppose to look like Moana/The Odyssey or is it pretty much Age of Sail 24/7?
              Last edited by Jen; 10-30-2017, 10:10 AM.


              The no.1 fan of Demetheus. I also draw Exalted things and is looking for commission works ~

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              • #8
                Some parts are going to look like Moana for sure, but Age of Sail is based on a rigging model that ships in the setting are consistently supposed to lack.

                ​I would think that the main visual inspiration for the seaborne trade and travel to, from and around the West might be the kind of boating that the Indian Ocean had for millennia before there was any major sailing across the Atlantic, but my image of what that looks like is unfortunately spotty because there's really basically no media in my cultural sphere that ever picked up on it.

                So! What kind of vessels might Muslim traders of about the time that the Sinbad stories might have been set could have been used on any of those voyages to Indonesia?


                I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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                • #9
                  I may point out that one of the functions of Wu Jian, in addition to being a critical staging point in the Realm/West intercourse, may be a huge moneychanging operation. Which, among other things, would be where the cowrie shells are exchanged for currency legal elsewhere in Creation. After all, no reason to exchange shells for silver if the shells never leave the West, right?

                  Talk about Pirates of the Western Main...

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                    I would think that the main visual inspiration for the seaborne trade and travel to, from and around the West might be the kind of boating that the Indian Ocean had for millennia before there was any major sailing across the Atlantic, but my image of what that looks like is unfortunately spotty because there's really basically no media in my cultural sphere that ever picked up on it.

                    So! What kind of vessels might Muslim traders of about the time that the Sinbad stories might have been set could have been used on any of those voyages to Indonesia?
                    I'd suggest Crash Course World History, it has a couple episodes discussing the Indian Ocean trade "Int'l Commerce, Snorkeling Camels, and The Indian Ocean Trade: Crash Course World History #18" I think two major ship types would be Polynesian canoes and Chinese junks.

                    Now a bunch of madeup stuff based on what I remember of history etc. The Neck is important because it is the first place you can refill on fresh water (coming from the blessed isle). And, because of wind and water currents, if you sail West you will be kinda funneled into the Neck. A natural chokepoint. Your alternative is to sail along the coast, deal with hot or cold weather, and hot or cold running natives, and then run straight for whatever island. Typically a longer sailtime, and more hazards, than going via Neck.

                    Resources: Anything (see Crash Course). If you can find something in the North or the South, and have a river or obsidian road or ice road to get it to the coast, the merchant can ship it through the West. The rare plants in the East? You could try to find "special plant #9" in the East, or sail to that one island that has a patch of the stuff. Something else unique, go to that other unique island. Another benefit; islands (usually) don't uproot and walk away, and its easier to navigate ocean than a maze of giant trees. Metals - Great Britain is an island, and people sailed there via the Atlantic for Tin, back in Conan era. Orichalcum? Go to the region with the most volcanoes. If you have Water Dragonborn or deals with certain spirits, you have potential access to anything in the ocean depths. etc etc And of course, spices, tea, and coffee.

                    Some types of locations
                    • Abandoned whatever. Treeless island with giant stone heads. Jungle-covered island with an abandoned temple at the center. Empty except for a shipwreck victim. In shallower water, islands conveniently close to sunken ships, full of jade..
                    • One-shot adventures. The island of the Great Roc, atoll of the giant crab. Island with a lighthouse, manned by an automaton for hundreds of years.
                    • Primitives. The usual sterotypical stories. Bonus points for savage islanders who throw victims into the volcano as worship of the Great Sun. And by the way, that sacrifice somehow ends up generating Orichalcum.
                    • States. Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Iceland, Sicily, Crete, Atlantis. Plenty of room for island countries with near-Realm level technology.
                    • People who moved out here because they wanted to be left alone. Say some rather extreme Immaculate monks.
                    • Experiments gone wrong. Dinosaurs. Anything you can explain with "a Solar/Lunar started this weird project, never came back after calibration, and things have run amok" Scylla and charybdis.
                    I suppose I would create my West in clusters of islands, with lots of "time passes while sailing" in between. Go north if you want more Vikings, south if you want more South Pacific, west if you want Mediterranean or Japanese. And special locations you can only reach if you have a way to sail against the wind

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                    • #11
                      Something that came up in the Q&A thread and apparently going to be talked about in The Realm is that the use of Wu-Jian as the main gateway to the West is new, and that historically the Realm had to use massive fleets via Goldenseal or Fajad to get there. So something I can see having happened in the last century is that locations along those older fleet routes probably have neded up ecnomically depressed, and old, more dangeorus routes are probably now the main ways of smugglers and pirates, as well as just risky folks who want ways there.


                      And stuff.
                      Made signature by moderator request. Any actual typing of "And stuff." is out of habitual reflex.

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                      • #12
                        SpoonR: Um, if you sailed straight from the Blessed Isle to the Neck, and didn't encounter any fresh water between the two points, you'd very possibly die of dehydration, considering that scuttlebutt water goes bad pretty rapidly at sea.

                        I always went with the assumption that there are islands between the two that have fresh water, and are just too tiny to feature on any of the maps.
                        Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 10-30-2017, 12:43 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Ah yes; I think the other reason why the West might be so critical to the economics of all Creation is that they not only possess some valuable goods that cannot be acquired elsewhere, but that they themselves form a reliable market for virtually everything (or at least everything that cannot be acquired on their own islands, which is still probably most things). For virtually every good that you could want to sell, I say you can be reasonably assured that if you sail out West, there will be people willing to exchange it for precious woods or oceanic treasures or spices that can be sold back home for a high turnover.


                          I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                          Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                          https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jen View Post
                            So is traveling around the West suppose to look like Moana/The Odyssey or is it pretty much Age of Sail 24/7?
                            I think it depends on where you're from.

                            I would also suggest the 1e book Savage Seas. That's gonna tell you tons about how sailing works in Creation. More than you probably want to know.

                            I had a game set in the West once where people were going from place to place on a regular basis. As an aid to inspiration, I created a random generator to tell me what was interesting about the place and I posted it on the forum a while back. Here's a Link.


                            Placeholder

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Leetsepeak View Post
                              Some topics of interest to me from looking back at the original sources are stuff like how to conceptualize The Neck, noted on the map, in Third Edition. In previous editions, it has been described as a peaceful bunch of islands where people fish and eat kelp, and they pay their tribute in cowrie shells because they have nothing else to give. The Neck doesn't get any mention in the Third Edition core, but does appear on the map. That said, this interesting tidbit is included in the economics section:

                              Originally posted by Exalted Third Edition, p. 77
                              COWRIE SHELLS AND STRANGER THINGS

                              In the West, the red cowrie shell is used as the standard unit of value. The shells must be very fine to have much worth, and are drilled and strung together in groups of 25, 50 or 100. They’re not much valued outside of the West, but in that region, they’re worth three silver dinars to the shell, or six shells per obol.

                              The Empress didn’t accept the West’s tribute in cowrie shells, but allowed the West to retain a functional means of exchange even as she stripped them of silver coinage. It is for this reason that silver is given a favorable exchange rate, and jade penalized.



                              If one follows the implication, it sounds like the Neck's previous form of tribute would not work in Third Edition, so there must be other resources that they pay their tribute in. Silver could be one, it seems, among other natural resources the chieftains of tribes might be made to acquire, or the people of the Neck might be enslaved to work for.
                              One weird connection that comes to mind is that the Neck could be the greatest exporter/producer of those red cowrie shell, what would make them sort of a key nation of sorts in maintaining the regional money standard and a sort of master exchange/trade nexus for the West's peculiar bartering & trade systems as a whole. If it is so, it could gather tribute through the variety of products it obtains from this exchange hub role.

                              Also, it might be an important local source of arable land (always a rarity in the West) and ironworks (a necessity for anyone who might desire protection against the fae), among other things.
                              Last edited by Baaldam; 10-31-2017, 10:17 PM.

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