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Isator Levi reads Dragon-Blooded: What Fire Has Wrought

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  • Okay, chapter is almost finished.

    Sworn Kinships: I can’t entirely remember the mechanics of Brotherhoods, but they weren’t exactly a neglected part of the Dragon Blooded canon, so if there’s any necessary expansion they had a solid base to build on. Given how it’s now a natural capability rather than a function of sorcery, I like the spiritual perspective they have on it. Plus the idea that they become at least as close as family, given how much Dynast family has been set up to this point; it’s interesting to imagine how, now matter far afield from the Dynasty a Dragon Blood is, if they’ve formed a Hearth with the scion of a House, they’re above reproach. Considering what I was saying before about other groups of Exalted who seem to kind of hate each other, I also appreciate the note on how Hearths will generally actually be loving.

    That and some guidelines on how they’re named (particularly the Three Kingdoms influences), since coming up with a decent name for… anything is often a chore. Hmm, it’s also interesting that the culture of the Scarlet Dynasty regards placing loyalty to Hearth above House is not the worst thing in the world. I’m guessing that the benefit to the Empress was promulgating that attitude in general and letting it unfold organically, and only occasionally in the form of having the loyalty of a Hearth member and leveraging that to get Dynasts to act contrary to House.

    It was said in the opening fiction that the kinship oath varies based on cultural background, so I wonder what the most basic standard for what constitutes a functional oath is.

    There’s a repeated emphasis on Hearths arising from adventure and conflict, but I wonder if they’ll confer benefits to more… peaceful life. Hmm, the idea seems to be that it necessitates being active, if not travelling, even if one’s purpose is more cultural indulgence or journey of discovery than fighting. Yes, if settling down is the kind of thing that causes a Hearth to drift apart, it probably doesn’t really provide much in the way of more administrative functions. Not to knock the emotional and psychological benefits of having a mystically bonded friend to seek repose with.
    Awww, the idea that they make their rededication public and that other Dynasts are moved by it is sweet.

    Ah, good, they actually do describe the necessities of the oath. Let’s see, nothing so much as their names, the intent to form a Hearth and flaring the animas concurrently. Suddenly, I’ve got an image of a Kinship sworn between Exalted who don’t even speak the same language. I’m guessing that the benefits of it will be most evident once we see the Charms; I had reservations about anything like Co-operative Charms still existing, but if it’s been folded into the function of Kinships, that resolves a lot of my concerns. And yeesh, the process of ending that tie sounds brutal even when it doesn’t entail active betrayal.

    And coming to the end of their lives…

    There seems to be a balancing act there; needing to have worked long enough to acquire money to support one’s lifestyle after having officially stopped working, while doing it early enough to be hale and strong. Suddenly I’m seeing a factor that might contribute to so many dying relatively young; the desire to go on an adventure or get involved in an intrigue with a big payout, getting them in the path of something dangerous. Dragon Blooded are probably still strong enough that a decent number actually make it to that youthful retirement, while I suppose that a disproportionate number of the actually elderly just spent a century or two running a family business operation and living off of a lifetime of savings and investment.

    I do wonder what kinds of hobbies a Dynast might have when they’re not traveling to strange, exotic locations and running the lives of the younger generation. Actually, no, that’s probably the wrong attitude to take to it; more what the matriarch and any of her advisors do. It’s more about being a teacher and advisor and enhancing one’s image with their achievements.

    Heh, for all that I’ve inferred motivations for assassination, I like that there’s at least one spot that actually illustrates it directly, even if the idea of killing somebody rather than being obligated to fund their retirement is among the more grim.

    Let’s see if there’s any change to inheritance law… half goes to the spouse or eldest child, the rest to the other children, not generally relied upon, and contrary wills frequently overturned in court… nope, pretty much the same. Dynasts need to earn their own money.

    And last of all, funerals, something that I’ve wanted to know about since we got descriptions of how the House founders are interred. Yyyyyeah, it looks as though having one’s body preserved in such a manner is a privilege afforded only to somebody whose remains might be the centre of a House’s rituals, and otherwise you get your lavish funeral followed by cremation. I am amused by the idea that they have a belief that the Immaculate Dragons can be swayed by endorsements and arguments made at the funeral.

    Aha, but there are a few more uncommon funeral methods based on devotion to particular Immaculate Dragons. Pasiap’s emphasis on construction and monuments is expressed in mummification and interment in a mausoleum (I can imagine Mnemon arranging a particularly elaborate setup for her descendants to pay homage to in the event of her death, possibly based on being seated upon a throne), Danaa’d goes in for burial at sea for obvious reasons, Sextes Jylis has one’s body broken down and used to feed a lavish garden, and Mela gets you fed to the birds (I particularly like the detail of how their bones are ground for the bread of sparrows and the like). So yeah, the methods for founders are still unique, but it’s all good that there’s some colourful diversity to their funerals.

    There’s some very good work in the society of the Scarlet Dynasty; a lot to give texture to the background of these characters and quite a bit for games set entirely on the Blessed Isle to work with. I admire how it’s able to have such detail across a number of areas while still being very focused, not needing to describe the Realm as a whole (validating the separation of books) without anything feeling like a waste.


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    • So, I’ve tried to mostly avoid details about parts of the book that I haven’t read yet, but I’ve managed to pick up a few very mild and vague hints about the outcastes chapter, and I am pretty jazzed up for it.

      However, it’s late, so for the moment I’m just going to see how much of Lookshy that I can cover.

      After the fiction.

      Cutting in on our signature Hearth’s son of Lookshy, sitting in a teahouse patronised by refugees. Heh, what’s a good party of adventurers without a bawdy musician to round them out? Even Dune had somebody like that. Hell, the Owls of Ga’Hoole movie had a character like that. Ah, but here we’re seeing the more fraught side to a multicultural Kinship, when those cultures happen to be traditional enemies, particularly in the midst of a Time of Tumult. From the prior chapter, I suppose that the likes of Eshuvar providing info to Mathar would not be considered the worst kind of crime (even if it would be discouraged), but I like the way that the Lookshyan makes a point of not wanting to ask them, and that leveraging their bond in that manner would be a violation.
      And it’s cute that they work in a reference to the old Sidereals in teacups meme.

      As an introduction to outcastes, it’s a bit non-specific, but it does at least cover the basics of an outsider’s perspective on the Time of Tumult, as well as a Dragon Blood that is a bit less used to privilege and command.

      So, Chapter Four: Beyond the Realm, starting off with Lookshy.

      I felt a bit of ambiguity before, but this is fairly clear cut on the order of contagion and invasion (to the extent that it matters). There is one very significant difference made to the backstory of Lookshy, though (really a combination of many small differences); the Seventh Legion is no longer a force that was assigned to protect Deheleshen to the last, and set up camp there in perpetual deference to those orders, but is now a legion that was far East (possibly in the midst of the fighting) and made its way west, collecting stragglers as it went.
      I won’t say that being assigned as a garrison to a city on the edge of the Inland Sea in preparation for a Fair Folk breakthrough made no sense, but I do think that there’s something beneficial to the Seventh Legion having been more battle scarred at the time, as well as the idea that they initially populated their city with a horde of displaced peoples. Ah, and their standing orders are quite different… yeah, acting as a provisional government of the fallen Shogunate makes a bit more sense as a basis for resisting the Realm than holding out on a final order to lock down a city.

      I don’t think the structure of the city itself is very different, but… I don’t know, somehow I’m getting more of a Ba Sing Se vibe from them now than I used to. Maybe it’s just because the description of the rings is short and sweet, and my mind can immediately go to a stark comparable image. Or I don’t know, maybe some of the rings have actually had their functions and residents altered a bit. I do think the idea that they were at different elevations may not have been there, or have been less pronounced, but don’t quote me on that. What’s important there is that it’s giving me a feeling of Lookshy being something more… Final Fantasy than I felt in the past, and I’m liking it.

      Okay, so, Gentes. Before I get into what the book says, a personal perspective: I can’t recall if, in the past, I expressed my reservation about Gentes as having been a thing only for the First Age, or extended that to the Shogunate itself. My reason for that emerged from a particular sidebar in the First Edition Dragon Blooded book that expressed the Great Houses as a relatively novel operation of the Empress, and I was drawn to the idea that in the First Age, the number of Terrestrials and security of their bloodlines made heavy emphasis on big family groups less of a thing. Obviously, that wasn’t really a view that the writers shared, and I have no issue with that… but with my recent assessment of Great Houses as elaborate tribal groups organised in that manner, I wondered if I may be able to express that as the innovation of the Empress, in comparison to a prior era in which Dragon Blooded families actually were more fun-sized, cohesive groupings. So I’ll be interested to see just how far the presentation of Lookshy’s families strays from that reconciliation.
      Okay, from the outset, we’ve got the return of that line contrasting Dragon Blooded numbers with quality of bloodlines, but in this context, I’m suspecting that it refers to their openness to outcastes from around the Scavenger Lands; that they’ll recruit you and marry you into their families without fretting too much on the quality of your progenitive Essence. Fair enough there.
      The way that it’s talking about gentes suggests to me that there’s more of them, which also lends itself to the idea that they’re individually smaller than the expansive structures of Great Houses. I like the language incorporating the idea that there are a number of “new money” gentes. If I’m reading one line correctly, that includes cases in which a family does not strictly need to have Dragon Blooded actually come from it, although I suspect that a newly elevated gens of mortals is considered an ideal entry point for some immigrant Exalt looking to make their way in the city.

      The General Staff… I’ve never been entirely clear on if the government of Lookshy was reserved for the Exalted. Nevertheless, I do appreciate having a concise breakdown of the structure of their governing body.

      Let me just peak ahead… oh damn, Lookshy covers about two-thirds of the chapter alone. Yeah, I’m going to check out this section introducing the Gentes Major and the sidebar on the city’s factions, and then call it a night.

      So, the Gentes Major have fluctuated over the centuries… I’m guessing that it’s not quite like the Great Houses, where when a House is gone, it’s gone for good, and more a case where for a few families, there’s been back and forth on whether one’s gens is considered major or minor, with the latter a bit easier to recover from (or rise out of starting as), in comparison to the Realm’s “not at all”. Their system is patrilineal but otherwise egalitarian, aaaand… did Lookshy always have a position of authority called imperator? If not, is the intended reference to Ancient Rome, or to Mad Max? Either is good.

      Uh-hmm, major gentes get disproportionate representation in the upper ranks, allowing them to enact policy in accordance with their views, aaaand that leads to the affairs of the city being more tumultuous. I want to say that this has generally been expressed as uneven implementation of policy, rather than overt infighting and persistent violence.

      And to finish, Lookshy’s five political factions: Mercenaries (not heavily described beyond their status in the city, but from context I can guess that their position is to fight only as circumstantial needs and being called upon by allies and clients warrants), the Interventionists (wants to use the army to elevate Lookshy’s status in the Province to more overtly controlling, I’m guessing by active military intervention to adjust the structures of their neighbours and decide regional conflicts in accordance with their own needs), the Isolationists (alternately want Lookshy to close ranks and adopt a kind of siege mentality, or de-emphasize the military culture altogether), the Imperialists (want to go further than the Interventionists and start actively conquering other territories and build an empire as a foundation for a new Shogunate, with a particular eye on abandoned satrapies), and the Purists (seem very similar to the Interventionists, but whereas the priority of that faction is on securing the city’s hegemony and intervention for the sake of that goal, these ones want to actively crusade against elements of the region that are contrary to Immaculate values).

      I believe that all of these factions existed verbatim in prior Editions, and… yeah, I still find them all to be solid political divisions in views of the manner in which Lookshy’s military power (the central purpose of the city) should be employed. Not much else to say about them.


      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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      • Have to agree on the layout. Lookshy was always sort of tiered but not it really does have more of a clearly Ba Sing Se feel. Which is awesome because Ba Sing Se is awesome.

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        • So, five major Gentes, conveniently allowing them to have one for each Aspect. 😉 I can barely remember anything about them, except a little bit about Karal, so I’ll just assess them on their own merits for now.

          Hmm, if Gens Amilar was founded by a defecting Realm general, I would assume that it was some time around the original invasions, but if it was supposed to be recent then I would guess that they’re only a generation or two away from Vondy Beulen (whom I would assume to have died fighting ahead of time). It doesn’t say specifically, but I guess that their tendency to employ chemical and biological warfare goes against the tactical doctrine of Lookshy in general.

          Errrrr… I find them to be an intresting contrast to the similar House Ledaal, with an intellectual tradition that is at odds with the ideology of the state, at least insofar as they want to push Lookshy to interventionism. Still, it’s good that they’ve also got a priority of recovering and studying First Age knowledge, especially with the storyline of the city’s diminishing resources.

          Okay, tell me about Karal… they stretch back to the city’s beginning, they’ve got that whole thing of charisma and embodying national ideals, standard so far… I think there’s a good mix in the projected career paths for them. I like the idea that, on the whole, they care about the well-being of the people of Lookshy and the River Province, but their passions lead them to being internally conflicted about what serves that purpose. Aaaand I did always like that point that they make a priority on presenting a unified front to the rest of the city, whatever their internal disputes.

          (I feel it’s a little bit odd to not at least be told about the family imperators)

          Maheka is good with its more even mix of crafting businesses than the likes of House Mnemon. Plus the contrast with the other gentes in being cautiously conservative to the point of inaction (although I’d say that in play, that has to be approached carefully to ensure that they’re not reduced to being an obstacle).

          Ah, here’s at least one reference to an imperator, even if it’s only in the form of being an authority that people who stray from the party line are concerned with.

          Teresu might be their navy, but it looks to me like it’s more of the arbiter of their soft power, through the trade and projecting the city’s image. I imagine that keeping up appearances in Lookshy’s society is good practice for that. Not much else I can say about them.

          I guess I could characterise Yushoto as a kind of… altruistic spy? People taking to heart the idea that the best charity is the kind that isn’t advertised? It stands out, at least, and is a good take on the Wood Aspect attitude.

          I’d say it’s to be expected that you wouldn’t really be a major gens if you widely held political views that deviated from the status quo. I do like some implications of that, though; that a lot of the agitation in the city is coming up from the roots.

          Yeeaahhh, I don’t really have much to say about the gentes. There’s nothing wrong with them, and I do understand the necessity of them being less detailed considering the small arena that they have to deal in, but it does keep them from being among the more interesting things in the game to me. I feel they work more as aspects of the overall fabric of Lookshy, rather than focused on in their own right (alternatively, that they’re written mostly as aspects of Lookshy makes them less compelling to read). Even Gens Karal is one that I remember primarily because I like the story between Linwei and Fire-Orchid. I would say Amilar’s unorthodoxy is the one with the biggest draw.

          Hmm, given the description of gentes earlier on in the chapter, I would have expected a few more than a bit better than twelve. That might just be me needing my sense of the city’s scale adjusted.
          I do think the sense of history in Gens Kiriga is interesting, both for themselves and the image that can give for what Lookshy was like before; a more imperialist period that exhausted itself. Nefvarin stood out to me, but that was mostly because of that old subversion in the family of the city founder having a lower status, and I like the further idea that their fortunes were tied to the Legion’s dwindling skyships, plus the little plot hook of (I assume) going for the Sword of Creation.

          Ahh yes, the Gunzota Incident was that time when a whole bunch were turned into crystal. I have a very mild sense that it used to be an accident, the result of tampering with a machine they had insufficient understanding of, rather than a deliberate attack. I’d say that Lookshy has generally less room for intrigue than the Realm, so providing this one big secret underlying them has merit.

          Just a little check ahead…

          Okay, when you say there are around a dozen minor gentes, seven of them is not a handful. >

          Let’s see, gens involved in a lot of commerce and city inventory… ah, I like Sirel having roots in the Realm that it can use to make contacts with patricians and cadets, as well as a general follow-up to notes on Shogunate families being expelled. There’s an interesting novelty to a family that is built around trying to capitalise upon the legacy of a legendary ancestor (I see a little deconstruction of any Shogunate sense of hero worship), plus a possible claim on another state’s monarchy. I think there’s a lot of potential in a family that holds itself as culturally separate from and preceding the Seventh Legion. And Yan Tu… is a little bit generic.

          Social classes in Lookshy are about the same, although I think some details of indentured servitude and slavery are different.

          And next is a section about the progression of their lives, so I’ll leave it there for the moment.


          I have approximate knowledge of many things.
          Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
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          • The Gunzota Incident was a covert assassination attempt on a leadership cadre that was drifting towards nepotism and corruption when it was first mentioned in Outcastes.

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            • Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
              Heyeyey, the detail of Nellens being father of Sesus was in previous Editions, so that's fine, but don't go trying to tell me things from later in the book than I have read.
              To be precise, i think Nellens the consort was the father of Sesus and Ledaal, but would have to check the books to be sure.

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              • Originally posted by Baaldam View Post

                To be precise, i think Nellens the consort was the father of Sesus and Ledaal, but would have to check the books to be sure.
                That was indeed the case, though in 3e Ledaal is apparently just a completely different person on the whole timlien of things, being the Empress' granddaughter instead.


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                • Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                  Even Gens Karal is one that I remember primarily because I like the story between Linwei and Fire-Orchid.
                  Yeah, I think if they want the Gentes to be more compelling, there should be more interpersonal stories. A big draw for a lot of the Realm Great Houses is the people in them and how they relate to each other. The reason people remember, and care about, Gens Karal is because of the political and social drama involving Karal Fire Orchid, her mother, and her brothers. We need some of that for the other Gentes as well.

                  Nefvarin stood out to me, but that was mostly because of that old subversion in the family of the city founder having a lower status, and I like the further idea that their fortunes were tied to the Legion’s dwindling skyships,
                  Whoever decided to narratively murder the Lookshy Sky Guard has much to answer for.

                  Skywolf for life, mofos.

                  I have a very mild sense that it used to be an accident, the result of tampering with a machine they had insufficient understanding of, rather than a deliberate attack.
                  You're thinking of the cover story. The Gunzota Incident has always been a coup d'etat right from its inception.



                  "SEX NOVA is the kind of person who, after being chosen as the divine champion of the god of heroes, decided to call himself SEX NOVA."

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                  • You know, from now on, I'm just going to qualify my vague recollections with "but I was probably mistaken about that" or some such.

                    Originally posted by Murcushio
                    Whoever decided to narratively murder the Lookshy Sky Guard has
                    much
                    to answer for.


                    ​Come on, we've (by which I mean the forum as a whole) literally had arguments about magitech for years. We've got a shiny new book now, why not dedicate all of that energy to fun new stuff like what kind of military forces Prasad might have.


                    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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                    • Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                      ​Come on, we've (by which I mean the forum as a whole) literally had arguments about magitech for years.
                      And we will for many more!

                      We've got a shiny new book now, why not dedicate all of that energy to fun new stuff like what kind of military forces Prasad might have.
                      You know, that's a super interesting question I hadn't considered. Initial thought after not a ton of reflection: Prasad is engaged in building an empire, and they're Realm-descended, so they likely have an army that is, bare minimum, SEMI professional, and they almost certainly have The Thousand Correct Actions of the Upright Soldier, which if you can get your officer corps to read and internalize is going to give you a decent base to work from. They probably have a structure that is recognizably at least based off the Imperial Legion.

                      However, their specific cultural milieu and Prasad's heavily caste and clan based society also leads me to expect they don't have full-on meritocratic we-serve-the-state-and-only-the-state-all-are-equal-in-service style Imperial legions. There are going to be some severe social fault lines running through their military, and probably more of what we'd recognize as corruption or inefficiency.


                      "SEX NOVA is the kind of person who, after being chosen as the divine champion of the god of heroes, decided to call himself SEX NOVA."

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                      • Originally posted by Blaque View Post

                        That was indeed the case, though in 3e Ledaal is apparently just a completely different person on the whole timlien of things, being the Empress' granddaughter instead.
                        That's interesting as it breaks somewhat from a fanbase expectation that all house founders were the Empress' biological, adopted (or supposed in Nellens' case) children.
                        It also creates a funny "two Ledaals" continuity bug between editions that i can certainly see Sidereal STs exploiting for drama, fun & profit.

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                        • Exalted: The Outcaste actually encouraged making up more lesser gentes. It also listed wholly mortal gentes, though since this is the Dragon-Blooded book, they're probably omitted by virtue of not being Dragon-Blooded.

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                          • Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
                            It also creates a funny "two Ledaals" continuity bug between editions that i can certainly see Sidereal STs exploiting for drama, fun & profit.
                            Are the Two Ledaals going to team up with the Four Rafaras?

                            They solve crimes!


                            "SEX NOVA is the kind of person who, after being chosen as the divine champion of the god of heroes, decided to call himself SEX NOVA."

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                            • Originally posted by Murcushio View Post

                              Are the Two Ledaals going to team up with the Four Rafaras?

                              They solve crimes!
                              Oh, i had forgotten about the Rafaras....now i have to think of how would i explain/insert that scene in a game...

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                              • Originally posted by Baaldam View Post

                                That's interesting as it breaks somewhat from a fanbase expectation that all house founders were the Empress' biological, adopted (or supposed in Nellens' case) children.
                                It also creates a funny "two Ledaals" continuity bug between editions that i can certainly see Sidereal STs exploiting for drama, fun & profit.
                                I guess it depends on parts fo the fanbase I guess. Tepet never really felt "adopted" save in the legal sense to me even in 1e. Of the current 11 Houses, him, Nellens' descendents, and Ledaal are not direct children of her's. Apparently Iselsi wasn't either and I'm sure plenty of other forumer houses weren't either.


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