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A new vision for the Great Curse

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  • A new vision for the Great Curse

    The Great Curse is like a splinter in my mind – any vector of attack wide enough to strike the entire Exalted host can and must have been protected against in the Primordial War on at least a portion of the Exalted. I can understand Exaltations being altered when outside of a host, vulnerable to powerful magic, but not at the end of a War in living hosts with the tools to be ever wary of an enemy's attack. At least in a 2nd Edition context.
    Does this declaw the Primordials? I think that now that several Primordials powers have been detailed in Infernals that we as a fandom understand the vast, terrible power – and alien, uncaring demeanors – of the Primordials enough to fear them and their possible effects on Creation. They make excellent big bads for what their (even useless) thrashing against their bonds can effect – in short for their potential future impact on the setting, not their historical impact. They already have enough of that given that they are the authors of the world, ruled it for time uncounting, and inspired the creation of the Exalted because no lesser weapons would do. That's some hefty historical impact. They can surrender the Great Curse and still be awesome.
    I aim to rewrite the curse to be the imperfection of the makers of the Exaltations – The Primordial, Incarnae and Deva who crafted them – rather than the result of hostile action. Because I like tragedy. Because the idea wouldn't let me sleep. Because the Incarnae are beautiful imperfect beings whose GotMH write ups inspire the Great Curse to practically jump off the page. Because nothing in Exalted should be totally without flaw, even for a short, unplayable slice of history. Because I really love Exalted and I want to contribute to the vibrant fan community of these boards.
    Enjoy.
    -----
    When Autochthon brought his designs for his proto-Exalted to the conspiracy the conspiracy found them lacking. They knew that even the long spans of inattention the Primordials usually paid to matters on Creation could not mask the industry required to build a suitable army of proto-Exalted and how vulnerable such factories would be in the ensuing conflict. The Incarnae diplomatically approached Autochthon and offered to help tweak the designs. Curiosity won the day instead of pride, and Autochthon accepted, intrigued by how his designs may be further improved. Little did any of them know at that time what stowaways would come along for the journey.
    The original plans called for five castes to match the five magical materials that Autochthon favored for molding his proto-Exalted. He called for their powers to be deemed Charms, be dependent upon previous Charms for understanding in a clear order. He also made these Charms interchangeable such that any proto-Exalt could learn a Charm so long as he possessed the proper prior knowledge. These base structures survived all the revisions except the Soulsteel caste.
    The Deva of Gaia, the great Elemental Dragons of Creation, added their advice first and last. First they asked Autochthon to research how to graft the Exalted soul to a human, made wholly of Creation's more base motes, Elemental motes, than the magical material substrates the proto-Exalted required. Autochthon did so. This allowed the Exalted to dodge the Great Geas while vastly lessening the industrial footprint. They insured humanity and Creation would be anchors any Exalted could draw upon, should they choose to look for such stability in the strife against the authors of the world. Thus was Clarity inadvertently lost.
    Sol enhanced the Exaltation's excellence, ability to achieve perfection, and granted access to his Holy power. From this input the Excellencies were made, perfect effects and Holy Charms.
    Sol's strive for perfection laid the groundwork for the Great Curse as a reflection of his own weakening when turning from adherence to his virtues. Once Sol was done the plans made possible a Limit track that would only gain points when an Exalted turned from his cherished Virtue. The Sun put this flaw in unconsciously as a reflection of his own relationship with Virtue, as an extension of the Virtue Flaws in perfect effects.
    Luna gave the host adaptability, creativity, the means to grow and survive. From her input the host was allowed to create new Charms, diverse Charms, and grow in Essence and all other aspects up to the limit writ by the universe, not a heavenly Bureau.
    Along with this ability to define themselves came an metaphysical raising of the hackles when resisting being defined by others. Thus do all the Exalted gain limit when they resist unnatural mental influence. Luna, too, entered this flaw unconsciously, as a reflection of herself.
    The Maidens built upon the input of the Dragons. If the souls needed were already out in the world, how could they be found? They shaped Destiny to always find a suitable host for Exaltation – one with the strength of will to use their powers, and through them make possible the revolution.
    But the Maidens also feared the long reach of Exalted power till the end of days, and alone among the patron gods of the Exalted argued and won deliberate flaws at this stage. Swayed by Saturn the conspiracy deliberately set a limit to the Exalted lifespan.
    But with all these gifts, much was at odds among the conspirators. Sol pressed for perfection but was countered by Luna's strive for further adaptability. The Maidens wanted Exalted predictable enough to see their futures, Luna wanted to be surprised. The Dragons wanted Exalted in the thousands but the Maidens wanted a few hundred at most, fearing their own future overthrow. The Incarnae vehemently opposed the power of Exaltation passing down by blood but the Dragons vehemently supported dynasties. Before the tensions around these questions could raise too high to destroy the conspiracy the Dragons gave their second and final piece of advice.
    The Dragons advised that the plans diverge, much as they diverge from Gaia, and be similar but not the same. That way each could inspire their own Exalted as they saw fit from the plans as they stood now, tweaking warriors to the fight against the authors of the world as each saw fit. Against Autochthon's objections of lessening interchangeability, Sol ordered it so. And so the Charms and Natures of the Exalted diverged and become nigh unknowable to one another.
    Thus did Sol take the input of all before him and craft the first among the Exalted, most perfect, most excellent and most Holy. No further imperfections were placed in his Exalted which only magnified the ones that already existed – a Limit condition became part of every Solar Exaltation. Satisfied with his effort, Sol was proud of his children.
    Thus did Luna twist the plans away from their current state to craft the Exalted nearly the match for Sol's. To honor Sol's demand of supremacy and out of her love of Gaia and the purpose she drew from such a relationship she bound every Lunar Exaltation to a Solar Shard so that they would know love and purpose. In a spate of creativity she invented Knacks. In defiance she allowed her children to learn the secrets of the Fae. But doing so added instability linked to the moon, such that the full moon further adds to the flaw of Limit.
    Thus did the Maidens become more miserly and more generous at the same time. Alone among the conspirators they dwindled the number called for in the Exalted plans from 300 to 100. Then they excised the power to craft new Charms. Only then did they give their more manageable and predictable children the power to weave the Loom of Fate through the collages, the Greater Signs, and a gift of deep understanding regarding the Martial Arts. They strengthened the way the Sidereal Exaltation finds its host by choosing at the moment the host's thread is created.
    Power over the Loom melded with an adherence to Virtue and became another way to accrue Limit. The Greater Signs stowed away an odd Limit-enhancing feature when in groups. Pairing an Exaltation and its host at birth ensured the moment of Exaltation would go exactly as planned, but also forced the Sidereal's fates in many other moments. The nature of Limit break changed to become Flawed Fate, and has in that form had consequences as far reaching as any Limit Break of the other Celestial Exalted. Whether Oversight, Samsara, Maidens, Asna Firstborn or some emergent mentality of the Loom plan these fates is anyone's guess.
    The Dragons took the most radical departure, with the most radical results. Extolling the benefits of dynasties and wary of the Maiden's guidance on usurpation they weakened their children, Gaia's grandchildren, such that they might pass the blood of Exaltation to their progeny. They spread the power of their Exaltation thin by dividing the original 300 to 10,000. They strengthened the Castes and tying each to a Dragon such that they became Aspects. This had several consequences, resulting in an overall diminishement of potency in an individual Exalt. So far from the original design only glimmers of Perfection remained, and those hard-won, but the magnitude of the consequences of Limit waned with them such that the Dragon-Blooded accrue Limit slowly and release it with much less disastrous results. Much of the extended lifespan of the Exalted was lost in this spreading. But the whole, working in unison, remained as strong as before. And alone among the Exalted could their numbers increase. Yet alone among the Exalted they could become extinct before humanity.
    The conspirators may have tinkered further, but Sol was finished and ordered the next phase of the plan to go forth. Exaltations were released, hosts found, an army raised, a war fought and a world won.
    But that was not the end of the changes to the Exalted. Even before the perversions of Abyssals and Infernals were crafted did natures shift. Exaltation, it seems, remains malleable.
    No changes came to the Solars, their patron content with his work the first time around, unable to notice the flaw in his design, passed on to all the Exalted. He spent his days enjoying the games and his children, especially Merela. When his children disappointed him he thought not to question their design – for how could he craft something flawed? - and instead turned his face from Creation.
    When the Lunars were cast out to the edges of the world during the Usurpation extended Wyld exposure found a crack in armor of the Lunars and destroyed the Lunar Castes. Never ones to take their lumps lying down their ingenuity brought forth Moonsilver Tattoos, with lasting implications to the Castes.
    Shortly after the winning of the war the Sidereals were given a greater hand in guiding Fate. In granting the Sidereals mastery of the Loom with the aid of Asna Firstborn and her brood, the Maidens made the it clear to the Sidereals that the time for unlimited meddling in Fate was at an end. They would not begrudge the Sidereals their own Charms, but the use of the colleges and Greater Signs would henceforth be measured against the difficult task of weaving the loom handed down to the patternspiders. The Maidens made it clear they would not be troubled to personally correct the disturbances caused by their gifts by granting the pattern spiders a potent weapon to use against Fate's chosen in the form of Paradox.
    The Dragon-Blooded found that mixing their blood with that of mortals diluted the resultant Dragon-Blooded. Already less potent than their Celestial peers, the thinning of the blood was an unwelcome find and quickly made taboo. But the politics of the First Age along with the most human need of companionship conspired to sully the blood of nearly every Dragon-Blooded living. While a restoration of the blood to Legendary levels is possible through intense selective breeding or long-lost Charms, the Dragon-Blooded have not yet shown the will (and ruthlessness to cull their lesser peers) needed to make it so.
    Sidebar: The Great Design Flaw?
    The effect is still known as the Great Curse by those few who may have knowledge of it, or assume it is only a Solar affliction. The Great Curse is part of a greater truth about Creation: that nothing is without flaw, even The Unconquered Sun and his children. Inescapable imperfections to the seemingly perfect are a constant in the Shinmanic overlap that Creation resides in. Such knowledge can drive an Exalt to greatness knowing that with enough skill and knowledge she may conquer anything. Such knowledge can drive an Exalt mad looking for the imperfections within herself. Some may never stumble upon this bit of wisdom. What story will you tell?
    ----------
    In this mythology perfect effects are intimately tied with Limit. Half-castes, themselves an unintended design feature, notably have neither. I envision the quest to erase Limit to be a quest to change all Exaltations that suffer from the flaw such that they may no longer produce perfect effects. Only then, divorced from Sol, could they be spared his limitations. At a particular table I see that as a dramatic moment in the quest to end the Great Curse necessitating some serious rethinking. Once they discover that path to eradicating the Great Curse some may trudge on in search of a better Creation even at the cost to one's self. Some may turn back and embrace the darkness and the power. Mmm... tragedy.
    Some other ramifications of this:
    Alchemicals now have Limit, though they accumulate it only as the Dragon-Blooded do. Ostensibly between proto-Exalted and Alchemicals Autochthon kept a modified form of Sol's perfect effect in his upgraded designs, and his fear is around the Solar Limit breaks that he discovered, not Limit itself. I propose that Alchemical Limit break is to reset Limit to 0 and set Clarity to 10, with WP gain.
    Sidereals no longer gain Limit via resisting UMI.
    Redeemed Abyssals still have Limit.
    Resonance and Infernal Limit (and associated breaks) are twisted to the desires of the redesigners. They are redesigned, but not gone, much like the perfect effects of their type.
    While the Dragon-Blooded already have the weakest Limit mechanic, I would like to see it yet weaker. I propose that meditation and celibacy reduce the Dragon-Blooded's Limit by 1 for each month strictly adhered to, simply because I like some truth to my lies (this lie being the Immaculate Philosophy).


    The Sack of Chiaroscuro - In a southern satrapy a Lunar elder must escape the results of his war-gambit against the Realm, but faces the city's mother-god as he tries to flee.

  • #2
    Hmm, the white space is all excised. Any tips on keeping whitespace post-post?


    The Sack of Chiaroscuro - In a southern satrapy a Lunar elder must escape the results of his war-gambit against the Realm, but faces the city's mother-god as he tries to flee.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Tikor View Post
      They can surrender the Great Curse and still be awesome.
      I've read most of your post and I have to say that this is where you go wrong. First, the Great Curse is not something the Yozis did, it's one of the few things the Neverborn did.

      Second, the Great Curse is integral to the narrative of Creation. It is the blood on the hands of the Exalted, who murdered the rulers of the world to install new rulers in their place. Without it, the Usurpation is not tied to the very first usurpation, the Primordial War, and the coming overthrow of the Realm by the returning Solars is just a thing that will happen rather than a recurrence of the cycle of uprising and overthrow set in motion when the Exalted changed the nature of the world.

      Third, making the Exalted all defective creations is a horrible thing to tell players.



      Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
      Ghosts: A Revision (2nd Edition)
      Masters of the Industrial Elements
      Upon the Rock of Tradition: The Memorial Exalted
      ​From The Crucible: Crafting As A Struggle

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Tikor View Post
        The Great Curse is like a splinter in my mind – any vector of attack wide enough to strike the entire Exalted host can and must have been protected against in the Primordial War on at least a portion of the Exalted.
        It was a curse uttered with a dying breath by a bunch of literally immortal beings in a moment of utter impossibility happening - even if you're inclined to reduce something so epic to a petty term like "vector of attack", it's easily imaginable why the Exalted Host had no defense whatsoever against such a convoluted scenario when they weren't really sure Primordials can be killed at all.

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        • #5
          I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Great Curse is better off with zero mechanical representation, or at most a set of optional mechanics that players (NOT Storytellers) can opt out of with no penalty. There is zero benefit to forcing the players to burn down all their great works with magical insanity that they can never cure without obscene metagaming.
          Last edited by HK-87; 04-30-2014, 08:05 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Kyeudo View Post
            First, the Great Curse is not something the Yozis did, it's one of the few things the Neverborn did.
            I use the term Primordial, pre-Yozi/Neverborn distinction.

            Originally posted by Kyeudo View Post
            Second, the Great Curse is integral to the narrative of Creation [so it has to stay].
            The creation of the Exalted is at least as momentous an event as the death and imprisonment of the Primordials. That story can carry the narrative weight.

            Originally posted by Kyeudo View Post
            Third, making the Exalted all defective creations is a horrible thing to tell players.
            Originally posted by HK-87 View Post
            the Great Curse is better off with zero mechanical representation
            Do you not like tragedy in your wuxia? Even 'perfection' being a shade off of perfect is a pretty strong running theme both mechanically and thematically. I'd hate to see truly invulnerable god-kings running about Creation; to lose that tragedy angle.


            The Sack of Chiaroscuro - In a southern satrapy a Lunar elder must escape the results of his war-gambit against the Realm, but faces the city's mother-god as he tries to flee.

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            • #7
              I'm not sure where all the objections are coming from. This is the best representation of the Great Curse I've ever read. It ties it into the themes of hubris and consequences that underlie the entire setting. I like a good tragedy as much as the next man, but the existing Curse always felt like it lessened the tragedy by making it all the Neverborn's fault. This version of the Curse, though, is itself rooted in a classical tragedy. It is the Fall of Eden: A mythical act of hubris that lets corruptions into the world and sets the pattern for all acts of pride and all subsequent downfalls to come.

              Thumbs up, A+, et cetera.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Tikor View Post
                Do you not like tragedy in your wuxia? Even 'perfection' being a shade off of perfect is a pretty strong running theme both mechanically and thematically. I'd hate to see truly invulnerable god-kings running about Creation; to lose that tragedy angle.
                I for one am not fond of mandatory tragedy. It's actually the biggest thing that ruins Exalted for me.

                The revised take is...eh, alright? The difference between "unknowable curse that you have to jump through insane metagame hoops to even discover" and "inherent part of Exaltations that you have to jump through somewhat less insane hoops to discover and requires eliminating perfect effects to remove" is kind of academic. It's not like the Exalted couldn't stand to be taken down a few pegs, but it's not an especially satisfying form of diminishment? I'm having a hard time articulating what I find off about it.

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                • #9
                  I'm not a fan of the current Great Curse either. Not because I hate tragedy, but because I don't think Greek tragedy works well in an RPG like Exalted.

                  The Great Curse is Greek tragedy - where people are fated to take certain actions because of forces beyond their control and have no way to stop or fight against it.

                  Oedipus Rex is a great story and all, and it could work when you're playing certain RPGs, but it's rather less fun to play out at the Exalted gaming table.

                  There's nothing wrong with having a Limit system, which reflects the nature of the Exalted, but you don't need to tie that to some massive, metaphysical doom hanging over the future of the Exalted and the setting unless you go about "curing" it.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tikor View Post
                    Do you not like tragedy in your wuxia?
                    I don't like tragedy anywhere, really, except in the sense of tragic events that the protagonists inevitably find a way to overcome. I would never have wasted my time on this game back in 1E when the assumption was that the Exalted are invariably doomed to failure regardless of player actions.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Tikor View Post
                      The creation of the Exalted is at least as momentous an event as the death and imprisonment of the Primordials. That story can carry the narrative weight.
                      The moment when the gods handed divine fire to mankind and said "Hey, change the world for us" and the moment when the Exalted actually accomplished the deed carry two different narrative burdens. The first puts our actors in the setting, the second frames their current predicament. Like I said, the Great Curse is the product of the first cycle of overthrow and it links through to the Usurpation and the chaos that will soon overtake the Age of Sorrows. This is the Titanomachy of Exalted and the first stain upon Exalted rule.



                      Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
                      Ghosts: A Revision (2nd Edition)
                      Masters of the Industrial Elements
                      Upon the Rock of Tradition: The Memorial Exalted
                      ​From The Crucible: Crafting As A Struggle

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by HK-87 View Post
                        I don't like tragedy anywhere, really, except in the sense of tragic events that the protagonists inevitably find a way to overcome. I would never have wasted my time on this game back in 1E when the assumption was that the Exalted are invariably doomed to failure regardless of player actions.
                        Huh. Wasn't the Grabowski quote from 1E that the "default ending" was everything going to shit if the PCs did nothing about it?


                        You need a picture altered to fit your Exalted character, or just looking for some visual inspiration? Check out the twice-reborn Exaltification thread. And here is my Deviantart page

                        Søren Kierkegaard + Kim Kardashian = Brilliance

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by danelsan View Post

                          Huh. Wasn't the Grabowski quote from 1E that the "default ending" was everything going to shit if the PCs did nothing about it?
                          The problem is, there is a sizable number of people who read that as everything is going to shit and the PC's can do nothing about it.

                          I blame oWoD for this attitude in players, many of whom came to exalted treating it like just another WoD game.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by danelsan View Post

                            Huh. Wasn't the Grabowski quote from 1E that the "default ending" was everything going to shit if the PCs did nothing about it?
                            The initial premise of Exalted was that you were in the twilight of the 2nd Age of the world. You would adventure and travel and do amazing things, the great adventurers of the last days of the Second Age of Man, and that soon the wheel would turn to a Third Age, and then a Fourth Age and then a Fifth Age. Remember that, at least initially, Exalted was intended to be the pre-history of the classic World of Darkness.

                            Just like the idea of Star Wars being, "A long, long time ago," or the Lord of the Rings, or like Conan taking place in an older era of our own world, before the world was slowly diminished.

                            The idea that the world was "doomed" or "fated" to diminish was a framing device intended to set the tone of Exalted, and to serve as a call-back to many of the pulp fantasy sources that served as inspiration for Exalted.

                            As an example, if you were running a Lord of the Rings game, could your PC's convince the elves to stay in Middle Earth and not return to beyond the sea? Well, possibly. I mean, it's your game and Rule Zero and all. But the default assumption would be that the elves pack up and leave.

                            Likewise in Exalted, it was the default assumption that, regardless of what your PC's did, the world was going to slowly diminish.

                            Some people liked this, because they enjoyed the framing device, and some people didn't.

                            I think, as Exalted has moved through 2nd edition, and become more of its own setting, rather than a set-up for the World of Darkness, more and more people have wanted to move past the "doomed" and "fated" concepts in Exalted's outline and instead have the game presented as one where the future is an open book, rather than one where the last page has already been written in.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by AnubisXy View Post

                              The initial premise of Exalted was that you were in the twilight of the 2nd Age of the world. You would adventure and travel and do amazing things, the great adventurers of the last days of the Second Age of Man, and that soon the wheel would turn to a Third Age, and then a Fourth Age and then a Fifth Age. Remember that, at least initially, Exalted was intended to be the pre-history of the classic World of Darkness.

                              Just like the idea of Star Wars being, "A long, long time ago," or the Lord of the Rings, or like Conan taking place in an older era of our own world, before the world was slowly diminished.

                              The idea that the world was "doomed" or "fated" to diminish was a framing device intended to set the tone of Exalted, and to serve as a call-back to many of the pulp fantasy sources that served as inspiration for Exalted.

                              As an example, if you were running a Lord of the Rings game, could your PC's convince the elves to stay in Middle Earth and not return to beyond the sea? Well, possibly. I mean, it's your game and Rule Zero and all. But the default assumption would be that the elves pack up and leave.

                              Likewise in Exalted, it was the default assumption that, regardless of what your PC's did, the world was going to slowly diminish.

                              Some people liked this, because they enjoyed the framing device, and some people didn't.

                              I think, as Exalted has moved through 2nd edition, and become more of its own setting, rather than a set-up for the World of Darkness, more and more people have wanted to move past the "doomed" and "fated" concepts in Exalted's outline and instead have the game presented as one where the future is an open book, rather than one where the last page has already been written in.
                              I agree.

                              That said, I think that it's important that Exalted not lose its tragic overtones. Another way to put that is that the right path is the knife's edge and falling off of it is very, very easy. I think that this is a tone that it could share with the World of Darkness games, especially Mage: The Ascension.

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