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  • Medicine and drugs to help you refine your essence?

    I've been reading a lot of more fantasy-themed wuxia web novels recently, and one thing that turns up again and again in them is the concept of special medicines that can be used to help people refine their inner energy, improve their spiritual cultivation, and generally raise whatever attribute the setting has that seems comparable to Essence. (eg. in Tales of Demons and Gods it's something they're constantly fighting over later on.)

    Is that a thing in Exalted? Obviously there's no real room for it to be mechanically meaningful for PCs, but it seems like something the Dragon-Blooded would fight over and struggle to control.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Aquillion View Post

    Is that a thing in Exalted?
    ​One of the sorcery initiations.


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    • #3
      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
      One of the sorcery initiations.
      Not quite what I was thinking of. Some of the purposes these medicines serve as a plot device (which is why so many stories use them) include:

      1. Since everyone who uses Essence wants them, they become a major resource everyone fights over.

      2. Since control over them and access to them helps with stable growth, they become a factor in reinforcing the control of powerful families, institutions, and even empires.

      3. They attach an additional concrete cost to trying to raise your power to extremely high levels.

      4. They make supernatural worlds resemble ours a bit more because it means that wealth and patronage from wealthy people helps you get to the top of the pyramid. This is useful when you want to tell stories that resonate with readers.

      Basically, when an elder DB retreats to try and raise their essence, do they bring a bunch of special drugs and medicines intended to smooth the way?
      Last edited by Aquillion; 05-22-2018, 10:55 PM.

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      • #4
        I'd say manses. and demenses. As places of high essence I'd imagine they're spots that are in demand for working with and learning more control over your essence. Not the same as the cultivation pills from Tales of Demons and Gods, but I think its the closest your going to get if you want them to actually have an impact as opposed to just being a thing that is said to work and such.

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        • #5
          I actually am planning to do something similar in my own Dragonblooded game, although I will be drawing upon the origins of the genre from Jin Yong and his Legend of the Condor Heroes (I know title isn't correct but since there is an official English translation of the novel, it would help others to find it for themselves)

          Current Chinese webnovels are rife with the number of various methods of cultivation, medicine and concoctions being a very alchemical approach to it. I am personally planning to use it as a way to access certain charms that may not be learnable otherwise, or to use it as a story reason to actually increase the essence of the Character.


          How can I know if what I claim I know to be true is rejecting the idea that there is something I might not know? How can I know if what I claim I don't know to be true is rejecting the idea that there is something I do know?
          -Zhuangzi

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Aquillion View Post
            Not quite what I was thinking of. Some of the purposes these medicines serve as a plot device (which is why so many stories use them) include:

            1. Since everyone who uses Essence wants them, they become a major resource everyone fights over.

            2. Since control over them and access to them helps with stable growth, they become a factor in reinforcing the control of powerful families, institutions, and even empires.

            3. They attach an additional concrete cost to trying to raise your power to extremely high levels.

            4. They make supernatural worlds resemble ours a bit more because it means that wealth and patronage from wealthy people helps you get to the top of the pyramid. This is useful when you want to tell stories that resonate with readers.
            ​Then no, Exalted doesn't really have that. There might be discrete instances of it being a particular person's path, here are things like ingredients that sorcerers use in doing their thing (like the behemoth materials exported by Fajad), and it might be a local plot hook like the White Elixir of that one Northern city, but the setting does not generally hinge on the idea that the Exalted are dependent on rare substances to grow more powerful, does it?

            Originally posted by Aquillion
            Basically, when an elder DB retreats to try and raise their essence, do they bring a bunch of special drugs and medicines intended to smooth the way?
            ​If that would constitute meditation on their element, then I'm sure it would, but would still see that largely in terms of what their Exalted Essence grows from reflecting on, rather than something imparted directly by the substances.


            I have approximate knowledge of many things.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Aquillion View Post
              I've been reading a lot of more fantasy-themed wuxia web novels recently, and one thing that turns up again and again in them is the concept of special medicines that can be used to help people refine their inner energy, improve their spiritual cultivation, and generally raise whatever attribute the setting has that seems comparable to Essence. (eg. in Tales of Demons and Gods it's something they're constantly fighting over later on.)

              Is that a thing in Exalted? Obviously there's no real room for it to be mechanically meaningful for PCs, but it seems like something the Dragon-Blooded would fight over and struggle to control.
              As noted, probably not anything that's in the system level resolution. In theory it could be some magical poisons that gave you temporary extra motes, but the big thing about such things is that you have to be careful about messing with Essence levels mechanically or things might break.

              I would say that there might be room for drugs and medicines being a part of how some characters attempt to cultivate their Essence or power. This is even some of the fluff for Wood Dragon Style, as a note. I think the big thing is that it's probably just one of many ways folks in Creation try to cultivate their Essenc,e and probably isn't notably different from more traidtional meditative stuff to warrant a large setting shift. There's a lot of other things of the rich getting richer and staying rich in Creaiton. Usually via money more than magic drugs, which is kind fo well...more Earth-like in that sense.


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              • #8
                "He who controls the Spice..."; I think here I do essentially agree a bit with Blaque (I think) here that there are quite a few self-reinforcing elements to organizational power and status in Creation, for Exalted, which mirror reality without this element already.

                The con of adding this a prominent setting element, is that it implies more rarity to a situation in which a cultivated, powerful individual among the Dragonblooded, can be opposed to institutional power, and less of a dance of co-opting and coercion between institutional power of or towards the talented individuals (which is also arguably true to our reality; the endorsement of"meritocracy" and the inability of organizations to replicate talent and so the practice of recruiting and selecting the most apparently talented individuals for power often results in the co-opting of power structures to serve talented individuals rather than any public interest as whole, as well as reverse). This is not to say it's wrong to introduce, but worth thinking about.

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                • #9
                  I think there's space for this kind of thing in the setting, but if it was me I would make the drug and the social/political dynamic it creates a local thing... Maybe it's found on one island chain and it plays a large part in the power-struggles of the local dragonblooded clans. There could be tension as Great Houses come sniffing around and the clans fear that the Realm will demand the drug in tribute if they conquer the region, causing the bulk of it to be exported and depriving the local clans of strength. In that scenario, demand for the drug begins to affect Realm politics and the island chain starts looking a lot like a developing nation with oil ...

                  Last edition had celestial cocaine, which was highly addictive and could enlighten mortals, but it never had the effect on the setting you're describing. It did make an appearance in a memorable episode of my campaign that was inspired by The Hangover.

                  Bright Morning, the drug that gives people the ability to see essence and immaterial spirits, is found in Arms of the Chosen. Maybe if used extensively over time it could accelerate the Essence growth of an exalt?



                  "Measure of Hope is right about everything." - Wise Old Guru

                  Currently running an Exalted 2.5 Abyssals game in a homebrew modern shard because I value neither my time or my sanity, and I'm loving almost every minute of it.

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                  • #10
                    What if Burning Feather, celestial goddess of intoxicants, created a sort of Exigence that would Exalt any mortal who took a special sort of drug?


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                    • #11
                      The 2e Manual of Exalted Power: Dragon-Blooded mentions that study of Wood Dragon Style involves "absurd quantities of hallucinogenic drugs" while meditating on the purity of Sextes Jylis.

                      I doubt that anyone specifically needs drugs (unless they are the Chosen of Burning Feather), but I'm sure that there are people who use them. I'm imagining dangerous thaumaturgical rituals that offer the thaumaturge enhanced benefits from overconsumption of bright morning and/or ghost flower tea. (Mortal exorcists need all the help they can get, you know?)

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                      • #12
                        Thinking about this topic a bit more, there's a couple of narratives at the extremes that you can spin around this topic.

                        One is the Steroid narrative. "Winners Don't Use Drugs". In this frame, drugs are simply destabilizing, illegitimate, and a fake way to upend a natural justice that rewards talent, and anti-elitist in a negative way that favours the brash and moneyed over the humble and authentic. That's fairly culturally familiar.

                        The other is the narratives that are present in the most recognizable form surround indigenous use of peyote, ayahuasca, salvia divinorum. (Within mainline culture to a degree around LSD). The drug here is a gateway provided as a gift from the divine, egalitarian and widely available to those with wisdom to seek it (somewhat elitist perhaps in only a communal, people unifying, ingroup egalitarian way - "This is a special gift of knowledge to our people among all nations, and we feel pride in the knowing") and a measure more of the skill and wisdom of the user to unlock their own potential and connect with reality. All this rather than a false advantage that let's them skip self reflection and cultivation of inner power.

                        I would be more inclined to use narratives of the latter form in Exalted, rather than the former.
                        Last edited by Ghosthead; 05-23-2018, 02:50 PM.

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                        • #13
                          The thing that mostly strikes me as being out of place is the idea of a substance with an impact significant enough to have people fighting over control of the source of it. That seems to attribute too much to the substance itself, and at the same time I don't feel as though I can really make sense of it, because there aren't really enough Exalted.

                          ​The closest I can think of (crossing over with what Ghosthead is saying about performance enhancers) is something that represents a success in the experiments of folks like House Ledaal to give their power a bit of a boost, which entails the idea that there's a risk or drawback to it in a manner that would keep it from upending the setting, while still possibly having significance as something to fight over control of.


                          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
                            Wasn't there in 2nd edition at least one drug that could be used to awaken essence use on mortals in Scroll of Monk?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
                              Wasn't there in 2nd edition at least one drug that could be used to awaken essence use on mortals in Scroll of Monk?
                              A few, however those did squat for exalts and enlightened/heroic mortals are no longer a thing.

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