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Exalted and the origins of power

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  • Exalted and the origins of power

    In the course of analysing Exalted and trying to reflect on some common patterns (particularly as regards trying to form a basic standard between what is valid for being Exalted and what is not), I noticed something interesting.

    As far as I can tell, when it comes to published Exalted material, I don't think we've ever really gotten an example of Celestial Exalted, especially Solars, who were Chosen from a position of strength. Like, offhand, I can't think of an instance where a writer gave as an example somebody who was, say, already a powerful and accomplished and unstoppable conquering warlord and having them become a Solar at the zenith of their power. You don't really seem to get people that are already strong, and secure in that strength, who get Chosen as a reflection of how impressive they are, how much they deserve it. Solar and Lunar Exaltation seem to have a tendency to come to people in significant moments of powerlessness; often people that have struggled with some form of it their whole lives, and otherwise for when a person is facing a profound challenge which feels beyond them. I think the most powerful person prior to being Exalted might be Perfect Soul (off the top of my head, I cannot recall another Solar that was a monarch before their Second Breath), and her moment came at a time when it was made apparent to her that her rank and privilege would avail her naught for something important to her (something focused on the well-being of other people).

    The significance of that to me is in what it might say about how the subject is conveyed to a variety of writers, that might suggest a dramatic throughline on the development side, even across three Editions.

    Compare to the Terrestrial Exalted. The moment of their Second Breath might often be during an instance of distinct stress, but the general line with them has been that Exaltation is in-born, and the rest is just a matter of when it wakes up (with no sense that it would stay dormant if somebody's life was entirely comfortable). Overall, the Terrestrial Exaltation isn't so much of an ideological thing; it doesn't really discern by personality. That effectively complements how numerous they are, because it effectively lets them be quite diverse. But it also has an important point emerging from the fact that its in-born nature makes it possible to track and predict.

    That you can systemize a process by which people who can be expected to Exalt can be isolated from the population at large, given significant benefits, and spend their lives with the expectation (or at least statistically reasonable hope) that they might Exalt.

    Mind, according to my prior observation/assertion, even if one somehow could gather a whole bunch of people that might be considered viable candidates for Solar or Lunar Exaltation and try to privilege them on that, doing so would weaken their viability.

    I think that can say something interesting about why the world might be in crisis when the Dragon Blooded are at the top of the pyramid, and some of the distinct ways in which the world might develop when the Celestial Exalted are deeply integrated into it. That there are issues when one can systemize and concentrate the people that will be intrinsically born with a great deal of power, in a manner beneficial to them.

    It's got its complications of course, from both sides; the upbringing of members of the Scarlet Dynasty and a few other bloodlines, while probably better to the vast majority of Creation's people, still have some harsher elements than many comparable people in real life get (and a significant number are given an education to emphasize being taught humility and discipline), and coming from want or adversity doesn't necessarily make one an empathetic person. But it can at least help to inform ways of characterizing Dragon Blooded of the Realm; that whatever else is going on with them, they're people who have been brought up with abundance, with entitlement, and with authority over others.

    It might also have some interesting implications for the Abyssal and Infernal Exalted. I maintain a desire for them to incline towards a certain villainous aspect, but if the heart of their Essence is still in something Solar, that might bar people who, in realistic terms, often produce some of the worst villainy. The Green Sun Princes might not include people who would have been riding high at the moment the offer was being made, even if the Yozis might prefer that, if the option is intrinsically denied.


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  • #2
    Volfer seems to think he would have won the fight he was engaged in when he exalted with or without the sun's help.

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    • #3
      I'm aware of these examples - but I take the implications for celestial exalts to be a little different...

      With the solars it's a person - regardless of the past actions - who is crying out (maybe not vocally) in frustration that despite having done their best, then their best isn't good enough to accomplish the grand goal they desire. Solars exalt when the exaltation senses this heroic potential for seeking perfection.

      It can be a king weeping that his armies are stretched too thing and his empire too large and unwieldy to manage, who exalts as a superb leader - or a disease-riddled beggar looking up at the mansions he never could get into, cursing them with hate as he eats a rotten apple who exalts as the greatest thief creation would ever heard of.

      I for one think it would be quite fun and interesting (if not a bit tricky to stat out) to play a king who exalts as a solar, who then has to figure out how to balance going on adventure and running his kingdom. This is the idea behind Perfected Soul IIRC.

      With lunars it's pretty much the same - only its not as much a heroic potential for seeking perfection, but one seeking to survive and protect. Fun lunar idea I have: A single parent with a child in tow, on the run from something, exalting as a lunar (mother hen virtue flaw anyone?) - could be fun.


      Malfeas F'Tagn - go check out my epic MLP/Exalted crossover "The Scroll of Exalted ponies" @ Fimfiction

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Elfive View Post
        Volfer seems to think he would have won the fight he was engaged in when he exalted with or without the sun's help.
        I don't know where to find Volfer's story, so I can't effectively assess that.

        I would still propose that his fallible human perspective would not invalidate the idea that his life or his moment were ones of significant adversity, if not general powerlessness.

        More importantly, I think it's good so long as he wasn't a guy who was so strong and skilled that he went around asserting himself against people weaker than him, and had that validated.


        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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        • #5
          It's in Tomb of Dreams, and honestly it could easily be him playing it off when he was actually screwed.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Elfive View Post
            It's in Tomb of Dreams, and honestly it could easily be him playing it off when he was actually screwed.
            Maybe not necessarily screwed, but Volfer's write-up and one of his Minor Intimacies definitely read to me as him having insecurities that would lead to him being defensive about his own Exaltation. Certainly, the idea that he actively refuses to speak about it might suggest a bit of self-consciousness.

            That being said, I think it also reinforces my thesis with references to the idea that, even though he enjoys the experience of violence, he's specifically not a bully, as well as how his Defining Principle is a desire to see the self-righteous get taught a lesson. I also read something important in him having been given a Major Principle that asserts that life is hard; it's not a stretch to assume that he's grown up with adversity, even if he took from it a relatively positive stance of treating the difficulty of life as a challenge to overcome.


            I have approximate knowledge of many things.
            Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
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            • #7
              I don't have time to fully engage with this now, but it looks interesting.

              I will say that I do think the point about Internals works well, because I think it's thematic for them to essentially pact with demons in a desperate situation, to solve a problem they couldn't otherwise deal with.


              "Wizard of Oz, you really are a wizard!"

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              • #8
                Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
                I will say that I do think the point about Internals works well, because I think it's thematic for them to essentially pact with demons in a desperate situation, to solve a problem they couldn't otherwise deal with.
                I mean, the whole part about Green Sun Princes being Chosen from the downtrodden, the underprivileged and the bitterly vengeful is already a given, having come from developer statements on both sides of the transition. All I'm doing is reverse-engineering a connection from that to a notion about the Solar Exalted.

                That and I'm amused by the idea that the Yozis would really prefer if they could just direct the Essences towards people who already have power and assert it violently and exploitatively against people beneath them, mostly with a view that such people would be a much more efficient vector for their vengeance, and they're frustrated by the idea that it just doesn't work.

                I've just remembered, I also had an idea that the failed attempts to create Exaltation by Isidoros and Oramus that the Kickstarter previews referred to could have been the result of trying to devise Exaltation in terms of empowering such people, and something in the way that the whole thing works caused such a starting premise to fail catastrophically.

                Whatever other issues there are in the ideas behind Second Edition Infernals, I retain a fondness for the line about how the Yozis can't truly sympathise with powerlessness, because even at their lowest point they've never truly experienced it.


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

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                • #9
                  Well, just looking at it as a number game, the ratio of "common people" to kings and warlords are quite high. So unless already being able to command people are a criteria for how they are chosen, it is only natural most of them are not.

                  Then, if at least part of the criteria is that they have to do something that is, or is perceived to be, a personal risk; most kings and warlords tend to put others than themselves in harms way. If it is to endure or refuse to conform, well, neither of those tend to be what those in power tend to actually do. Now I don't remember which real world king it was, but when he had done what he executed his own soldiers for, he cut of his hair as his own punishment. From his point of view, cutting of his hair might be equal of being killed as peasant. However, I don't really think the peasants agrees, nor the Incarneas in Exalted.

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                  • #10
                    I hold the impression that solar exaltation is a moment of clarity in adversity more than anything else. It does go out largely to powerful people, that's established too.

                    Might just be writer bias, might be that it was edited out because it's too nuanced for the basic vibe of "the returning heroes" that corebook examples would contain. That said, "What the Christ" Panther did exalt when he realized his throne gilded with blood and fame was irrelevant. He was top dog right then and there.



                    I'm absolutely comfortable with The Senator exalting as people applaud him into power after a masterful political move, with a legendary sword master exalting during a difficult duel - but one he was clearly winning - just as he becomes aware of the Perfect Sword Stroke.

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                    • #11
                      I would need to reread Admiral Sand’s entry again, but I want to say that he had a very powerful merchant empire and his crisis was that he was dying with noone to leave it to who wouldn’t squander it. He’s probably the other candidate for most powerful Solar pre-exaltation so, while I think he does fit, reviewing his story might help you further refine your thesis.


                      ....

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                      • #12

                        Originally posted by Synapse View Post
                        That said, "What the Christ" Panther did exalt when he realized his throne gilded with blood and fame was irrelevant. He was top dog right then and there.

                        Panther's case would be more dubious to me if he was a Dawn Caste rather than a Zenith, but that whole thing running on an emotional tone of deep dissatisfaction shifts it far away from "Panther was really good at something, and so he became Exalted, because that was his due".

                        Besides, the guy was a highly paid sports entertainer in a pre-modern context. He wasn't exactly running anything, and that kind of thing runs on a sharp time limit even by modern standards.

                        Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
                        I would need to reread Admiral Sand’s entry again, but I want to say that he had a very powerful merchant empire and his crisis was that he was dying with noone to leave it to who wouldn’t squander it.
                        Let's see... in Caste Book Eclipse, Admiral Sand was a man who had a tumultuous youth of running high risk trade convoys of sand boats, before retiring to a small village to be headquarters to his own little trading company (it doesn't really seem fitting to call it an empire); his investment developed his adopted home and neighbouring towns and villages into a reasonably prosperous informal little confederation. His life developed a value system in which he saw trade as not merely being about money, but about preserving and cultivating connections between people. As the Time of Tumult rolled in, his home became afflicted by fear and uncertainty, while he initially rejected any calls from his peers to try and provide guidance or leadership as an imposition upon his comfortable retirement, making excuses that the squabbling local leaders would pull together when it became important. He finally had a moment of clarity when he looked out at his village and noticed how run down it had started to become, as well as being unable to ignore patterns suggesting that the problems weren't going to resolve themselves, he went to confront the failed leaders and got unsatisfying answers, at which point he was Exalted with a message from the Sun telling him to be a bridge to bind the people together.

                        It's a bit unorthodox and subtle, with a few nuances, as Exalted stories go, but I'd say it inclines more to the Perfect Soul end of "powerful person faced with profound (somewhat morally driven) moment of crisis", and he was probably not even as powerful as she was.

                        The write-up in Scroll of Exalts... does phrase things in terms of all of the dutiful older men retiring or dying off to be replaced by wicked squandering youths, and needing an old hand to step in and show them how things are done. That's pretty weird and unpleasant with its whole undertone of "kids these days don't know how good they've got it" (which rings a lot more blecch today than it did when the book was written, and it wouldn't have been the best then), so I'm gonna go ahead and cheerfully disregard it.


                        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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                        • #13
                          Something related to my point that was started by sentiments expressed in a different thread is how one might approach villains from the Realm. How the combination of systemic entitlement and power not really being distributed according to a criteria of power could create very powerful people in the Realm who are just kind of all-around terrible and don't really have any deeper complexities to their motives. They're motivated by a status quo that has always strongly benefited them, that they were brought up to believe they deserved, and without the kind of socialising to cultivate much in the way of empathy for people without those benefits or actively exploited to create them (as well as severe hostility towards people that would object to such).


                          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)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by webkilla View Post
                            I'm aware of these examples - but I take the implications for celestial exalts to be a little different...

                            With the solars it's a person - regardless of the past actions - who is crying out (maybe not vocally) in frustration that despite having done their best, then their best isn't good enough to accomplish the grand goal they desire. Solars exalt when the exaltation senses this heroic potential for seeking perfection.

                            It can be a king weeping that his armies are stretched too thing and his empire too large and unwieldy to manage, who exalts as a superb leader - or a disease-riddled beggar looking up at the mansions he never could get into, cursing them with hate as he eats a rotten apple who exalts as the greatest thief creation would ever heard of.

                            I for one think it would be quite fun and interesting (if not a bit tricky to stat out) to play a king who exalts as a solar, who then has to figure out how to balance going on adventure and running his kingdom. This is the idea behind Perfected Soul IIRC.

                            With lunars it's pretty much the same - only its not as much a heroic potential for seeking perfection, but one seeking to survive and protect. Fun lunar idea I have: A single parent with a child in tow, on the run from something, exalting as a lunar (mother hen virtue flaw anyone?) - could be fun.
                            Per the core of EX3, Lunars do not revolve around survival and protection. Their Second Breath is noted as being almost exactly like that of a Solar, only with Luna in attendance. They're full of rage against the order that cast them out and want it gone, so they practice survival by necessity and occasionally act as protectors, but they're more about shattering what tries to fetter them.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Saur Ops Specialist View Post
                              they're more about shattering what tries to fetter them.
                              I'm all for this, and am suddenly thinking about amusing ways in which Luna's standards for what counts as being somebody in a disadvantaged position might differ significantly from the Unconquered Sun's.

                              Like an heir apparent to a monarch who chafes terribly under all of the social conventions and constraints and standards of etiquette that polite society imposes upon them, culminating in a moment of disastrous personal rebellion that could destroy them (which Luna finds compelling in a manner that she responds to with the Second Breath)… but still possessed and wielded significant power, and bought into any ideology saying that they were entitled to it, and so becomes a bit of a holy terror once they're a mighty shapeshifting demigod.

                              Perhaps not often, because I have a picture of Luna being strongly pre-disposed to underdogs, but maybe the kind of thing getting into an idea that Luna is a lot less concerned with righteousness than the Sun is.


                              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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