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Traditional gender roles in the realm.

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  • As far as I know, mistresses as an institution is really more of an Early Modern thing, although that might be kind of nitpicking. More pertinent is how it doesn't quite track, because that's really kind of commodifying one's own objectification, more than exchanging sex for authority.
    Oh no, mistresses were very common for medieval Kings. They just didn't tend to have the cachet that they had later. In England, for example, we have records of the mistresses of Henry II, Edward II, Edward III, Richard II, Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII. (And Henry VIII, obviously, but he's really the defining first King of Early Modern England).
    Other Kings had bastards, so likely had mistresses, we just don't have the records.

    But anyway, commodifying one's own objectification is my point. In a matriarchy, women are less objectified, so I don't really see them commodifying it much.

    If a Dynast man sleeps with a Dynast woman that is not his wife? He's running the risk of giving away the milk without her and her House even needing to pay for it, and extending the time until he can give an Exalted child to his actual wife.

    Even if his illicit affair results in no children, his lack of temperance can be a disgrace. It may well be worse to conceive children out of wedlock with another Dynast than it is with a peasant; it might well go to waste in a peasant, but it might very well Exalt in another House, possibly a rival House, and you didn't get anything in exchange for it.
    True, but my point was you don't really need to do it yourself. Get him to sleep with a servant and blackmail him.

    I mean, it's not really that I can't imagine a dynastic women ever sleeping with men and then blackmailing them, or sleeping their way to the top generally. I just don't think it'd be very common, for the reasons we've discussed above.

    To get back a bit to this:
    Originally posted by Aquillon
    I don't think Tepet Lisara was a good character, and I wouldn't want to use her specifically, but characters like that are very good at evoking the players' emotions. (Again, look at the response to Dolores Umbridge.) So I think it's worth having a few of them in the game as tools that the ST can use when they want the players to absolutely hate someone. "Horrible person abusing / misusing power they didn't earn" is absolutely an effective tool in that toolkit, and I think you can definitely sketch out a compelling Dragon-Blooded character who fits the bill while still seeming larger-than-life in a way that suits their Exalted status.
    This is a good point, but if we're talking about making NPCs for the PCs to dislike, since written NPCs tend to be taken as representative, it'd be better to have a male NPC who sleeps his way to the top. And if I was making some NPCs to really annoy the Dragonblood PCs, again, I'd probably make a male pretty-boy who seduces powerful female generals and politicians and gets them to put him at a higher rank than the PCs.

    A female NPC who sleeps with a lot of others for political reasons I'd probably have as more the power-player than the self-commodifier.

    For example, one Dragonblood (not Dynastic) NPC I had, Queen Ashen Witch, was a middle-aged Fire Aspect whose husband was a fairly stupid but handsome toy-boy (who she later disposed of so she could marry the guy the PCs were trying to install as their puppet King, seizing control of the country the PCs were trying to take control of after they'd murdered its queen, her cousin). She slept with various important people (including PCs) not to blackmail them, but as an expression of her own social power, as the Queen who can sleep with whoever she likes. When she got bored of one of the male PCs, she just stopped sleeping with him, because as Queen, the power was with her, not him. She didn't even try using any DB seduction charms on him; that wasn't the point.
    I was trying to present her, essentially, as a gender-flipped King, doing the same things that decadent Kings have done in history. I think it worked okay, though she wasn't a hugely significant NPC.
    Last edited by The Wizard of Oz; 10-21-2018, 05:39 AM.


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    • Originally posted by Lioness View Post
      Yeah, the Storyteller to our Infernals game followed similar lines with her characterisation and she found an unexpected acceptance among our Green Sun Princes but I wouldn't advocate that version became canon.
      This is my cue.

      Canonically the way the House of Bells is said to work is that you are supposed to do everything as a unit even sleep and bathe, my assumption has always been that this has also extended to punishments with the intent that units would subsequently turn upon their weak members (think Full Metal Jacket with the bars of soap) and try to drum them out of the school so their overall result improved.

      Her poor exam grades would have kept doing this to her unit as people she thought were her friends started to turn against her. As scary as that was, it paled to the notion of going home in disgrace. Hence she followed the ideology of many great strategists and sought victory at any cost.

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      • Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
        Now, thinking back to the Middle Ages, you don't get a lot of examples of men sleeping their way to the top, yet there's tons of royal mistresses. And the thing about them, is a)they're not generally from the richest families, and b)they're from the gender that's oppressed.
        Essentially, it's something lower noble girls do to get positions for their family, because it's the only way they can get it. It's very much something connected to lack of power.
        So, I wouldn't expect women in the Realm to "sleep their way to the top" very often because they're the gender with more power and wealth and connections to high-up people (if they do, they'll likely be from lower-status groups, like Outcastes).
        I do think it's more about personal power on the whole. Women in positions of power in their own right seems relatively in the early Middle Ages, when kingdoms tend to me more of a rough and tumble affair of strong man rule than in later period when succession is more stable and some female rulers can emerge at times.

        When you do see female figures in power emerge through lack of male heirs under male primacy primogeniture (still rarely), males certainly do rise and fall in status as "favourites" through personal relationships (Queen Elizabeth I is a striking example), despite the strong overall patriarchal character of the system.

        Rarely sexual of course (Queen Katherine the Great is the only obvious example of a monarch who was known for this that immediately springs to mind, though there must have been others). That must be some composite of the overall bias in the culture to accept male infidelity and multiple sexual relationships, and probably some common psychological male average of preferring a wider pool of partners, and female average for fewer partners with more resources (which seem apparent through a few lines of evidence - broader distribution of partners among gay men who are constrained only by male preferences, simple knowledge of consequences of pregnancy and how that will affect your psychology - but perhaps you would in this instance need a control world to prove is not mostly cultural!).

        Still, that does suggest to me that it's more about the power of the individuals. (Again, I think the fact that gay or bisexual male rulers in the medieval to early modern period pretty much got up to the same kind of thing, illicitly and generally to some displeasure of chroniclers, with males also kind of inclines against it being necessarily a product of the overall sex bias of the culture).

        That also seems like it has some meat in Creation in the behavior of the Big Cheese of the Realm, where the Scarlet Empress is denoted as taking many female lovers who are able to advance their position because of it.

        Though there's that element of control and regulation of male / female sexuality. I would tend to think that's less pronounced for males in the Realm that females in IRL pre-modern societies, if we're consistent with the previous editions presentation of the Dynasts as a decadent aristocracy, where male dynasts are not infrequently having tons of sex slaves and whoring around and having incestous affairs and committing rape in war and so on. In general, you probably want to remain consistent to that idea of the Realm aristocracy, even if it shocking to modern mores.

        (This is not really related to my view of whether Lisara is a good character to have in or not! Which is time worn discussion from pretty much any thread about gender on this forum and on the whole, probably we all agree she's not very well written and that where we want to express our decadent aristocracy that is nepotistic in often quite sexualised ways, we should do so through other means. Mainly I just though the above by Wiz was an interesting topic).

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        • Originally posted by Aquillion View Post
          As for why you would want completely awful people, they do serve a lot of useful purposes. For Anathema or outsiders, they serve as act one villains that can ease players into the story - especially players that might otherwise be inclined to be more cautious or less active. Think Luca Blight from Suikoden 2 or Shoukou, the villain from the second part of Twelve Kingdoms. People like that make good "man figure" villains with a more interesting and complex "king figure" and "god figure" behind them in the background.
          As much as this sort of character is a useful story device, I'd have to qualify it for people considering this argument that there's no necessary reason that you need a Dragonblooded to fill that role. Exalted has a diverse array of challenging character types - ranging from mortals, gods, sorcerers, Fair Folk, other Exalted and many-not-quite-mortals besides - if you wanted this character type, but wanted the Dragonblooded to have a basic level of qualification in talent and if not moral sympathy, then at least redeeming features. The empire will have frequent recourse of these kind of other character types as resources and allies, so even you want to use these characters in a game focused against the Realm, you can.

          Not that I'm personally necessarily against Dragonblooded being occasionally as you describe, though I also have no opposition to these kind of people among the Solars, Lunars, Sidereals and so on either.

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          • Originally posted by Ghosthead View Post
            Queen Katherine the Great
            Just to clarify, Catherine II was an empress.
            Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 10-21-2018, 08:16 AM. Reason: Derp

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            • Originally posted by Ghosthead View Post
              As much as this sort of character is a useful story device, I'd have to qualify it for people considering this argument that there's no necessary reason that you need a Dragonblooded to fill that role. Exalted has a diverse array of challenging character types - ranging from mortals, gods, sorcerers, Fair Folk, other Exalted and many-not-quite-mortals besides - if you wanted this character type, but wanted the Dragonblooded to have a basic level of qualification in talent and if not moral sympathy, then at least redeeming features. The empire will have frequent recourse of these kind of other character types as resources and allies, so even you want to use these characters in a game focused against the Realm, you can.

              Not that I'm personally necessarily against Dragonblooded being occasionally as you describe, though I also have no opposition to these kind of people among the Solars, Lunars, Sidereals and so on either.
              As other people have said, though, Dragon-Blooded are particularly suited to it due to the thematics of inherited power. Also:

              but wanted the Dragonblooded to have a basic level of qualification in talent and if not moral sympathy, then at least redeeming features
              I strongly disagree with this. Exalted are meant to be larger-than-life; that's the only qualification. Beyond that, I don't feel that the idea of inheriting a special capacity for "moral sympathy" or "redeeming features" makes the slightest bit of sense. Exalted should be humans writ large, not people with the Good Person Mark.

              Beyond that, there are story advantages to having your hate sink be a Dragon-Blooded specifically, especially as the first villain your players face. It's something that encourages them to over-react in ways that can lead to interesting stories with the rest of the Dragon-Blooded and the Realm. For Anathema, it also plays into the idea that Dragon-Blooded are unworthy successors seated on stolen thrones, which encourages them to get into the basic mindset for their splats.

              Some people might object that that's too simple. But, like I said: First, it can be used to set up more complicated situations later on - you want STs to have a way to ease players into the story. Hate-sink characters often serve that purpose before being replaced by more complex villains or systems behind them. And, second, the game needs to be able to be played in its "stupid" mode at its most basic, since that's what you build all the complicated deconstructions and subversions on top of. So you want to have at least one or two characters of each splat that embody the horrible things other people say about them in order to give people someone to play off of.

              Now, that doesn't mean that they should be boring. They need to be interesting enough to be worth using; and they should feel larger-than-life the way Exalted are meant to, rather than pathetic. Previous attempts at characters like that have sometimes fallen into that trap. But I don't think they need to be sympathetic or to have clear redeeming features. Sometimes a scenery-chewing villain is what's called for, and I think it would do the game a disservice to say that such characters can never be Exalted (especially given that its name is, well, Exalted.)

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              • Originally posted by Aquillion View Post
                As other people have said, though, Dragon-Blooded are particularly suited to it due to the thematics of inherited power.
                Problem is in previous editions it was heavily overused, even otherwise good blooks like Blood and Salt fell into this trap of assuming Dynast = Dragon-Blooded and used the terms interchagably in places.

                Second Edition especially started to equate the debauchery of the Realm's elite with something intrinsically wrong with Terrestrial Exaltation (seriously, the books talk about Dragon-Blooded like a plantation owner talks about black people) and not because the privilidged are prone to abusing power.
                Last edited by Lioness; 10-21-2018, 03:33 PM.


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                • Some of this conversation is touching on a subject that is relevant to my interests, but not really on topic, and I would want neither subject to becomes muddied up. I shall take it elsewhere.


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                  • Originally posted by Aquillion View Post
                    I strongly disagree with this. Exalted are meant to be larger-than-life; that's the only qualification. Beyond that, I don't feel that the idea of inheriting a special capacity for "moral sympathy" or "redeeming features" makes the slightest bit of sense. Exalted should be humans writ large, not people with the Good Person Mark.
                    I'm more keen on that. I dunno; I remember lots of complaint that Exalted were not sufficiently heroic, and should have some basic degree of being admirable in their character. Just trying to sort of adopt that perspective here a little, and give some ideas on how adopting that perspective is still compatible with displaying character that falls outside that range as part of the story world.

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                    • What are we considering redeeming features?




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                      • To me, it's less redeeming features and more something that makes them entertaining and interesting and larger-than-life.

                        For example, Shoukou, from Twelve Kingdoms, would have a motivation (in 2e) something along the lines of "test the truths of heaven by performing endless acts of absolute wickedness." In 3e he'd probably have a defining principle of "Heaven-defying wickedness" or something like that, and probably an intimacy towards evil for its own sake. When he was finally defeated, he was joyous that the Heavens itself had sent someone capable of defeating him and that he would have a chance to die at her hands. None of these are redeeming, but they're suitable for someone of Exalted stature if you want a villain who hunts humans for sport.

                        (An important caveat is that someone like that is not who you'd normally use as the sole or ultimate villain of a campaign - in the setting, he's emblematic of the kingdom's corruption, and the real issue is what allowed someone like him to rise to power and continue to hold it, which is a more complicated issue than anything he poses personally. But characters like that can be useful tools as part of a larger story.)
                        Last edited by Aquillion; 10-24-2018, 10:30 PM.

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                        • I don't object to characters like that being Exalts but if they were in a book without some kind of usage guideline I'd say they were a bad NPC.

                          Essentially a character like this wears the trappings of a complex political situation but they're basically a reskin of the dragon in his lair which is great for a D&D game because however much Game of Thrones has influenced what people want out of fantasy, it's still essentially a game about killing people and taking their stuff.

                          For Exalted though? This guy is basically exists to get stabbed in the face, if the PCs don't immediately recognise this (i.e. have principles against killing at least as a first resort) it's got the potential to be a long and frustrating ride.


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                          • Originally posted by Astralporing View Post
                            Notice that the last example (Ragara Soras Heral) is exactly an important and powerful male scion in an interhouse marriage (to a House that doesn't have all that many exalts yet, so can hardly afford to "sell them out" too easily).
                            This is the kind of detail that can and does change between editions, it's an upcoming marriage to an unnamed woman that Heral has no intention of consumating. As a non-entity her house is pretty irrelevant, you'd maintain the narrative with the body double if she was a distant cousin also from House Ragara.

                            There's a good chance that the writer missed the implications of him marrying an Exalt from another House because Banoba has been portrayed pretty consistently marrying mortal women (the books say Patricians but they probably meant mortal Dynasts) to remain the dominant partner and claim the children of these relationships for House Ragara.


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