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  • To be a hero, or to be human?

    Or something else entirely?

    Hey folks, I’m currently facing an in-character conflict, literally in-character as my Zenith is struggling within herself. She identifies as ‘a simple country monk’ (insert your own southern accent and braces-snapping, they’re accurate for her) but her NPC WiFi, Abyssal girlfriend and unintended cult of mortal followers all believe she’s amazing and aren’t afraid to tell her.

    She’s not one to hide her abilities (She’s maxed-out on STR, has good mental stats and multiple 5-dot craft masteries) but she really does view herself as just a normal person who can do things others can’t. She’s struggling with accepting herself as anything special...but she’s a Solar.

    I guess the real question is, when does your character outgrow their pre-exaltation sense of self and embrace their new role?

  • #2
    I tend to play characters that are on board with being heroes...from the moment they exalt, if not before. I've had a few players play characters not entirely sure of themselves or their own power, but only rarely (and they all play nights...), but most characters I've ST'd for think their something special (if not going full hubris).


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    • #3
      Harry Potter never thinks of himself as special, even when training armies and using artifacts crafted by death himself to defeat the world's most powerful wizard. And he has people saying he's special from day one.

      Save it for Limit Break.


      Hi, I'm JohnDoe244. My posts represent my opinions, not facts.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Epee102 View Post
        I've had a few players play characters not entirely sure of themselves or their own power, but only rarely (and they all play nights...)
        Uh, curious. The only player character I haver ever seen in my group that wasn´t sure of his status as a Solar was a Night Caste (with strong Immaculate beliefs: when he was a mortal he worked as a scout for a Shikari). Maybe that´s a Night Caste thing.

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        • #5
          Hah my forst exalted character ever was a Twilight that had an irrational fear of zombies, all the way until I retired him as an Essence 7 complete badass. Not like a paralyzing fear they just still gave him the wibblies.

          More to the point, as a monk I think your character’s position has a great opportunity to evolve into a kind of wisdom. Maybe she never really sees herself as special or above anyone else, just that she has different challenges set before her to overcome. The real question is, is changing her self perspective something you want to do? Or feel is necessary?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Sticks View Post
            when does your character outgrow their pre-exaltation sense of self and embrace their new role?
            Why should one?

            Certainly, they're all going to keep being human in any case.


            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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            • #7
              Originally posted by Sticks View Post
              Hey folks, I’m currently facing an in-character conflict, literally in-character as my Zenith is struggling within herself. She identifies as ‘a simple country monk’ (insert your own southern accent and braces-snapping, they’re accurate for her) but her NPC WiFi, Abyssal girlfriend and unintended cult of mortal followers all believe she’s amazing and aren’t afraid to tell her.

              She’s not one to hide her abilities (She’s maxed-out on STR, has good mental stats and multiple 5-dot craft masteries) but she really does view herself as just a normal person who can do things others can’t. She’s struggling with accepting herself as anything special...but she’s a Solar.

              I guess the real question is, when does your character outgrow their pre-exaltation sense of self and embrace their new role?
              Pffft. Your WiFi: the greatest teacher of martial arts!

              It feels almost bad to give advice to someone at the same metaphorical table as me but FWIW: taking on a higher level of responsibility and power does not make you inhuman. It just means you're a human with power. You have to think about your actions, what you're able to accomplish for better or worse. An Exalt can do things a Humble Monk can not. They've the insight and wisdom to lead a monastic movement, write scriptures and create doctrine. You've the power to act on the macro level, it's just all within you rather than being the result of your position in the world.

              Now, you don't have to do that. An Exalt can show restraint, whatever retcon BS 3E added in about 'Essence Fever'. *does disco move*. But not acting like that is a choice too. You're either accepting the current state of the world, or denying that you are worthy of shaping it. Your actions will probably still be significant but only in either in maintaining the status quo, or in changes wrought incidentally in the pursuit of smaller goals. You beat up the bad guy who was threatening you, fine, but now their city's unstable, stuff like that.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Croakamancer View Post
                An Exalt can show restraint, whatever retcon BS 3E added in about 'Essence Fever'.
                Your view of Essence Fever is mistaken if you think it constrains character behaviour like that.


                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
                  Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                  Your view of Essence Fever is mistaken if you think it constrains character behaviour like that.
                  Oh, I know it doesn't constrain, but it's presented as normal: the default way a young Chosen will normally act. Even without it, similar pressure on Exalts to 'act epic' has always been there. But it's a new thing from Ex3, I don't care for it for a few reasons, so one more for the complaints pile!.

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                  • #10
                    I'd argue that you've actually got two, rather separate questions here. The first is "When should my character stop thinking of themselves as 'normal' and accept that they're exceptional", and the second is "when do I stop being human?". And I would argue that the answer to the second, at least, can very well be "never". Because the Exalted are human. I think that's a pretty fundamental part of the game's themes - the Exalted have been given great power, sure, but they're still humans, with human drives and motivations, human triumphs, and human flaws. If they stopped being human when they exalted, they'd be less subject to human morality, and questions at the heart of Exalted, like "what would you do if you were given the power to accomplish your goals?", stop being as meaningful.

                    And of all the Exalted, I'd argue that the Solars in particular are the most human. Their powers are basically human abilities, simply pumped to the maximum. Sure, the Unconquered Sun's Essence gives them a fiery, sunlight-feeling theme, but the basic nature of what He gives is excellence. When a Solar swordswoman uses Peony Blossom Attack to make two deadly strikes in less than a heartbeat, when a Solar preacher unleashes Terrifying Apparition of Glory and strikes awe into the hearts of all who look upon her, or a Solar crafter uses her bare hands to beat a bar of iron on the forge because Craftsman Needs No Tools, those are all things that are what someone who's extremely good at Melee, Presence, or Craft can just do in Creation. They're not external "spells" or powers granted by Sol Invictus, he's just supplying the power of excellence needed to raise those skills to that kind of incredible pitch (in fact, my headcanon is that sometimes very skilled mortals, in times of extreme stress and focus, can pull off what are effectively Solar charms. It's just, without the Exaltation backing it up, those heights of skill aren't easily repeatable. And, often, it's a moot point, because achieving that sort of effect on your own is practically begging for a Solar Exaltation to notice you anyway, so they become capable of doing it again anyway).

                    The upshot of the Solars being the most "human" of the Exalted, though, is that it's actually a worse thing for them to lose that sense of connection and empathy with mortals than any other type of Exalt. If a Lunar, for example, comes to the conclusion that she's basically a monster, a quicksilver shapeshifter with no true face, only what she presents to the world, well, that's true. It doesn't mean she has to stop caring for humans. But a Solar who comes to the conclusion that "Hey, I've got all this power, I'm basically a god, not a human at all" has lost sight of a key truth of her nature, that she is human, and the things she accomplishes are something any human could do, if they tried hard enough. That means she's either lost her empathy, or, even worse, deliberately cut herself off from it, and is probably well on the road to becoming the sort of tyrant who justifies the Usurpation.


                    So, the question of whether your character is human aside, let's address the other question, of when it's appropriate for her to stop believing she's just "normal", and "nothing special". I'd say there's two main ways of approaching this, the characterization one, and the dramatic one. What I mean by that is that the characterization approach considers what the most believable way for your character to come to the conclusion would be, based on her personality, influences, etc., while the dramatic approach considers when it would be most appropriate to make the decision based on narrative considerations, when it would be most dramatic to happen.

                    For the characterization approach, you've got to decide exactly how strong the character's belief in her normality is. I assume it's an Intimacy, because if it's just an idle belief without much emotional stock in it, the character comes off more as just foolish for believing something that's clearly not true. Now, game-mechanically, even a Defining Intimacy could technically be eroded in as little as three scenes, assuming the ST agrees it hasn't been coming up. It could be removed even faster than that, if a strong social character put a lot of effort into eroding it and had some other Intimacies to oppose it. So, one way to both strengthen the characterization and mechanically boost you against attempts to remove the Intimacy when you don't want to is to make sure your other Intimacies support it. For a Principle of "I'm just a normal woman, nothing special", other Principles like "I hate people who set themselves up as better than others" or Ties to people or things she knew before she Exalted are good. These can be used to get resolve bonuses against attempts to change the core Intimacy, and to do decision points if the attempts do succeed. Conversely, the supporting Intimacies can be a useful guide to how long it takes to change the central one - if you have to abandon or change the context on all of them before tweaking that central Intimacy, it puts a useful brake on how fast you shift. Personally, I'd go with having three or four supporting Intimacies, and limiting myself to reducing or changing the context to one per session. Assuming the central Intimacy was at the Defining level, that would mean it would be between 5 sessions (assuming all the supporting ones were only at Minor level) and 12 sessions (assuming the supporters were all Defining as well) before I could completely remove the central Intimacy of "I'm just this guy, you know?"

                    Narratively, on the other hand, while still a question of Intimacies, depends much less on other supporting Intimacies (though I still recommend having some, to provide support against having the central one removed before you're ready). Instead, you want to look for dramatic moments to declare the Intimacy has changed. There's really too many potential dramatic moments to ever list them all, of course, but here's a couple classics:
                    • A contrasting character: a character appears who's fully embraced the idea that being a Exalt makes them better and not human. To make this work, they do have to be legitimately impressive, not just a poser or otherwise empty. The dramatic moment can come when your character beats them in some kind of conflict, thus proving her superiority, but giving her a chance to say "Yes, I am special, but that doesn't mean I'm not human! I'm not like you, I can accept I'm skilled without giving up my humanity."
                    • A dark reflection: This is almost the opposite of the above suggestion, a character who's too much like yours. They've got a similar belief in their own "normalcy", and it's harming themselves and those around them - perhaps they're refusing to use their abilities, or rejecting the responsibility people are trying to give them, leaving others without guidance. The dramatic opportunity here is for your character to step up and say "I realize I'm not normal, but that means I have to use my powers as best I can, to help people." If you can drop the line "With great power comes great responsibility", bonus points.
                    • Some great catastrophe or event is happening, and only your character is capable of solving it. To really set up the drama, several other people that your character previously considered "above" them (parents or other family members, civil authorities, religious figures, etc.) should try and fail, before your character finally has to step up and do her job. In the aftermath, she can accept that she's not "normal", but that means she can help more people. Again, "With great power comes great responsibility" is a good line at this point.
                    Notably, the narrative route requires more cooperation from the ST, because they've got to introduce NPCs and situations to give you those opportunities. You should be talking to them regardless of your approach, so that you're on the same page, but it's particularly important to do so when you're trying to be dramatic about it.

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                    • #11
                      For a monk character, a constant tension between humility and the breadth of capability seems quite fitting.

                      Originally posted by Croakamancer View Post
                      the default way a young Chosen will normally act.
                      It's an emotional impulse described as taking as little as a few months to bring under control.


                      Originally posted by Kelly Pedersen View Post
                      If a Lunar, for example, comes to the conclusion that she's basically a monster, a quicksilver shapeshifter with no true face, only what she presents to the world, well, that's true.
                      Not really.

                      Setting aside the way that the line between humanity and monstrosity is presented as something that presents no inherent conflict or challenge for Lunars, I realised something about the majority of their Charms when thinking about what worked so well in the absence of making them Animal Exalted.

                      Namely that those powers also have an essential humanity which defines their overall character. The guiding themes are just different than Solars.

                      I mean, no real inner self and just a face presented for society's sake? What, is that something that no human has ever struggled with?

                      You know what's really inhuman? Inhospitality being punished with lightning bolts.


                      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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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Croakamancer View Post
                        Even without it, similar pressure on Exalts to 'act epic' has always been there.
                        I still prefer Essence fever to 2e's "epic Motivations."

                        Originally posted by Croakamancer View Post
                        But it's a new thing from Ex3...
                        Actually, it was introduced by 1e.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                          It's an emotional impulse described as taking as little as a few months to bring under control.
                          Which leaves it still in play for most starting parties?

                          TheCountAlucard dang... Really? That's hilarious! One more stupid thing from 1e instead. (because players really need an excuse to... do things ^^)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Croakamancer View Post
                            One more stupid thing from 1e instead.
                            Whether or not you like it, I'd appreciate it if you stopped calling it stupid, as it's something that I and a few of my friends enjoy about the game.

                            Originally posted by Croakamancer View Post
                            (because players really need an excuse to... do things ^^)
                            Yes, sometimes they do. Considering that there are people in Creation intent on hunting the PCs down and killing them, some players tend to focus on laying low and staying hidden; it helps to have a reminder that the game is still ultimately about being Big Damn Heroes.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
                              I still prefer Essence fever to 2e's "epic Motivations."

                              Actually, it was introduced by 1e.
                              Actually actually, 1e introduced it due to its not being edited out (much like Chosen of Saturn having been Orangesids in the early iterations) and made no mention of it beyond the paragraph where it appeared for the rest of the edition. 3e dusted the concept off and changed a few bits, namely Essence Fever being a temporary thing that's like growing pains for the Chosen, as opposed to a presumable freak-out mechanic replaced by Limit Break.

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