Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

The Anatomy of the Exalted Soul

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The Anatomy of the Exalted Soul

    To be a bit blunt and upfront, I've always been interested in different cultural perspectives on the soul, whether that's reading about what ancient Greeks thought of it, old Norse explanations, Egyptian, Mayan, etc, I've always been super into that. I've also spent a lot of time researching what various groups believe about them today, whether that's reconstructionist pagans, people of the book, living tradition pagans, and so on.

    So I've always been kind of interested in Exalted's take on souls, especially considering it is one of the few settings where you can practically dissect them. Unfortunately, I've also been very frustrated with how inconsistent it can feel at times.

    This came up, because I am rereading the third edition books for the first time in a long time, getting ready for a game, and I couldn't help but notice that the concept of 'Exalted Shards' never once came up in any of the books. Not in the corebook, not in the Lunars book, and not in the Dragon-Blooded book, anyway. It never explicitly denounces the idea, but I've full-on ctrl+f'd searching for 'Shard' and the term never came up.

    And then of course there's 'Miracles of the Solar Exalted', and then the shards are back, making it somewhat unclear to me what changed from 2e and what stayed the same, to be honest.

    Which brings me, in a sense, to my gripe?

    Exalted likes to boast a lot about how you're playing a hero 'reborn'. This is kind of its central premise. But it also, rather confusingly, promises that anyone can exalt, and that the exaltation is an uplifting process, one that is a kind of rebirth rather than 'remaking' them.

    The issue is, based on how the world treats them, a process of rebuilding is exactly what happened? It would be fine if you were not 'the reincarnation' of a hero of legend as far as I'm concerned. There are plenty of cultures that believe spirits and gods and wights can't actually tell the difference between a person and their ancestors. In terms of soul anatomy, they might refer to this as someone's 'Kinfylgja', or they might use some other term for it. The point is, it's a bit of a trope that you and your ancestors are connected in that way.

    But in Exalted, it's clear you don't actually share any relationship with your past self prior to the moment of exaltation. Any tomb defenses would not notice you as your past self - because you are not connected to that essence in any way yet - spirits would not refer to you as though you were still your past incarnation, and so on.

    This is especially confusing because the exalted 'shard' isn't even properly a soul, and in second edition is even supposed to be scrubbed clean to remove all those pesky memories and intimacies. At least in third edition they made it seem like they were going to replace the shard idea with a more neutral kind of supernal essence that finds you, imbues you with the essence of a celestial, and therefor connects you to past heroes, but then Miracles of the Solar Exalted falls back on the concept of shards.

    In general, Exalted can't seem to decide whether the exaltation is an individual soul, or if it's the piece of a soul. If it's a piece of a soul, why then is it the be all end all of a person's identity going forward? Why is the most recent past incarnation the one that spirits and defenses 'recognize'?

    Sometimes it just legitimately feels like Exalted wanted to include a trope without completely considering the mechanics of satisfying those conditions. But I'm very curious what other people's takes on this are, and how they square that circle.

  • #2
    3e's intentionally dialing back on the Exaltation as a distinct thing, for the sake of the tone of the setting.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
      3e's intentionally dialing back on the Exaltation as a distinct thing, for the sake of the tone of the setting.
      Does that mean I should disregard the section 'Past Lives of the Exalted' on page 4 of Miracles of the Solar Exalted?

      What's your take on what a Celestial exaltation is, and how that plays into the 'legend reborn' concept?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Solana View Post
        Does that mean I should disregard the section 'Past Lives of the Exalted' on page 4 of Miracles of the Solar Exalted?
        I said "dialing back," not "eliminating."

        Originally posted by Solana View Post
        What's your take on what a Celestial exaltation is, and how that plays into the 'legend reborn' concept?
        Depends on what the themes the game I'm going to explore are.

        ​That said, I generally treat Exaltation (not just Celestial) as something numinous and not entirely understood, not even by those who pass it down from on high. I go with the idea that certain entities think that aspects of a recipient of the divine fire are retained, and act as a continuation of the old bearer(s) in the life of the new; I also go with the idea that other entities won't view the new Exalt as a new incarnation of the old Exalt, any more than a son should be recognized as his father.

        ​I go with the idea that the power passed down by the Sun is the same power he passed down to humankind at the dawn of history, and that sometimes the world recognizes that, and that sometimes, it doesn't. Sometimes the Exalt herself recognizes that. And sometimes, she doesn't.
        Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 01-14-2020, 05:36 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          One way you can think of Exaltation is as a title. When a king dies, his heir becomes the new king. That king is still himself, but he's also "the king"

          Now imagine kingness came with a new soul and memories.

          Comment


          • #6
            I don't think 3rd ed was ever going to dial back on the past lives thing, it is integral to the Solar/Lunar dynamic after all. The devs are just shifting away from the portrayal of Celestial exaltations as autonomous, virtue-seeking power-ups and making their nature more numinous and mystical. But they still do all the same things 2nd ed exaltations did, complete with adding a bunch of past lives onto your personal history.

            I'm afraid I need some clarification on some of the distinctions you're drawing.

            I'm having trouble seeing the difference between this:

            Originally posted by Solana View Post
            supernal essence that finds you, imbues you with the essence of a celestial, and therefor connects you to past heroes
            and a 'shard'.

            Do you mean how shards were portrayed as a third 'soul component' that got stapled on after hun and po? As opposed to the more nebulous infusion that occurs in 3rd ed?

            I'm not sure what the rebuild/rebirth dichotomy is either. You talk about 'piece of soul' vs 'individual soul' so is rebuilding getting a piece of a soul and rebirth is getting your soul wholsesale replaced (which I don't think has ever been implied in the setting)? What would it even mean for an exaltation to be a whole soul?



            "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.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Measure of Hope View Post
              I don't think 3rd ed was ever going to dial back on the past lives thing, it is integral to the Solar/Lunar dynamic after all. The devs are just shifting away from the portrayal of Celestial exaltations as autonomous, virtue-seeking power-ups and making their nature more numinous and mystical. But they still do all the same things 2nd ed exaltations did, complete with adding a bunch of past lives onto your personal history.

              I'm afraid I need some clarification on some of the distinctions you're drawing.

              I'm having trouble seeing the difference between this:



              and a 'shard'.

              Do you mean how shards were portrayed as a third 'soul component' that got stapled on after hun and po? As opposed to the more nebulous infusion that occurs in 3rd ed?

              I'm not sure what the rebuild/rebirth dichotomy is either. You talk about 'piece of soul' vs 'individual soul' so is rebuilding getting a piece of a soul and rebirth is getting your soul wholsesale replaced (which I don't think has ever been implied in the setting)? What would it even mean for an exaltation to be a whole soul?
              A shard implies that the exaltation is quantifiable. There is X number of them, and we know how many they are. They are a thing which can be trapped within a Jade Prison which can then be corrupted by the yozi/the neverborn, resulting in the Abyssal and Infernal exalted.

              The example I gave is poorly worded, but essentially I was imagining it as humans/mortals being bound to the celestial incarnae in some way. In this model, a person could either be born pre-disposed, or eventually harmonize with, one of the incarnae. A person doesn't become exalted because they happen to be acting righteous while a solar shard was free up bouncing around creation like a magic bullet, they'd exalt because their own essence harmonizes with the Unconquered Sun's essence at a critical moment that leaves them changed. At that point, they might experience visions of past lives in the same way various cultures in the real world might consider it normal to have a memory of something one of your ancestors did.

              As for how to avoid the possible imbalance if it's entirely possible for 1,000 or so Solars to be running around, you could always hand wave it as being a 'trend'. In the first age the 'trend' was for there to be around three hundred solars at any given time, sometimes more, sometimes less. As for why that might be, it could be a mystery relevant to a game tailored for it.

              I'm told the idea of shards is being dialed back down, but just because they're not kept in a magical cabinet and polished by a god until they're squeaky clean again, doesn't really make them any less shards. There's still a fixed number of exaltations that we are aware of. They're still a quantifiable thing which binds with someone, gives them the same magical powers as before, and essentially gives them a second, more important soul (which I always disliked because it kind of devalues the soul which, prior to that moment, was great enough to exalt in the first place). They're also tangible enough that they could be trapped in the jade prison, and then subsequently corrupted.

              So so far I'm not really seeing how things are any different than they were in 2nd edition, minus the presence of a caretaker god.

              Comment


              • #8
                Ok, I just checked and miracles doesn't refer to the exaltation as a shard, it refers to the solar as a shard of the unconquered sun.

                The context is entirely different.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Elfive View Post
                  Ok, I just checked and miracles doesn't refer to the exaltation as a shard, it refers to the solar as a shard of the unconquered sun.

                  The context is entirely different.

                  See my response to Measure of Hope. Whether or not the books deign to call it a 'shard' or not, Miracles of the Solar Exalted makes it clear that they function exactly the same as they did in the past. There's still the set 300 Solar Exaltations (now 150), they still return to heaven when the exalt perishes, they still get trapped in a jade cage, and they are still empirically distinct objects which can then be corrupted. They never use the word 'Shard of Exaltation', but that does not change the fact that, even if they've decided to avoid using the word 'shard' in 3rd edition, that's what they are, because nothing practical about them has changed.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Where does it say the jade prison was a physical container? What if it was like, a radar jammer that prevented the exaltation signal from merging with a mortal waveform or whatever?

                    The thing about 3e is that it's deliberately vague. You're not gonna find explicit descriptions of the mechanics, and they still work vaguely like they used to. There's not exactly 300 solar shards, but that's about how many solars the sun will exalt before he stops. There could be more, there could be less. And that's how it works for every other aspect. The exaltation isn't a "second, more important soul". For one thing, it's the third soul. Humans already have 2 in exalted by default. For another it's importance is only more significant to historical artifacts and ancient spirits. You're not your past life. You're their successor, and your first point of business should be to remind those who would claim otherwise of that fact.
                    Last edited by Elfive; 01-14-2020, 07:43 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Elfive View Post
                      Where does it say the jade prison was a physical container?
                      Second Edition.

                      What if it was like, a radar jammer that prevented the exaltation signal from merging with a mortal waveform or whatever?
                      It only imprisoned some of the shards, both in second and third editions. If the shards were not captured/held in one place, the Yozi/Neverborn couldn't have corrupted them, which they did. Until we get any new information on those exalt types, the closest thing we have to canon is 2nd edition.

                      The thing about 3e is that it's deliberately vague. You're not gonna find explicit descriptions of the mechanics, and they still work vaguely like they used to. There's not exactly 300 solar shards, but that's about how many solars the sun will exalt before he stops. There could be more, there could be less. And that's how it works for every other aspect.
                      It mentions explicitly that there are only 100 Sidereal Exaltations. The other celestial type might also have hard numbers listed, but I can't open a book and check. At the very least I know it has not referenced the original 2nd edition numbers, only to then say that it is "a rough approximation at any given time." Much as I might personally prefer that.

                      Exaltations are finite, and they have permanence, this is irrefutable if going by the books, 2nd or 3e.

                      The exaltation isn't a "second, more important soul". For one thing, it's the third soul. Humans already have 2 in exalted by default. For another it's importance is only more significant to historical artifacts and ancient spirits.
                      Don't you feel that's veering a bit pedantic?

                      It functions, per the books, in a manner befitting another soul. Every opportunity the book gets, it reminds you that this is -you-, that the person in the past was also you. The alienation is only made more keen when you remember that this isn't actually a part of -you-, the original person. It's something from without that decided you were an appropriately sized hermit crab shell, and is the source of all your greatness. I provided an example above of how I'd - like- exaltation to work, and you seem largely on the same page, but that is not how it works per the books.

                      You're not your past life. You're their successor, and your first point of business should be to remind those who would claim otherwise of that fact.
                      Except for all the times where you are, in fact, your past self. Because Exalted its inspired by genre media where that is both a thing, and expected. The issue is your -you-ness, the character you came up with who would eventually exalt, has nothing to do with any of that. And is not related to that individual in the least.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I agree that there isn't a meaningful difference between the concept of a 'shard' as you've described it and the portrayal of Celestial exaltation in 3rd ed. As an aside, I'm not sure 'shard' was ever the official nomenclature so much as a fan term, but it's useful shorthand for referring to that particular portrayal of exaltation. I also dislike the language that has been used even in the current edition to suggest that mortal souls ain't shit, despite everyone who ever earned a Celestial exaltation having done so with just a mortal soul.

                        The trouble is, if you get rid of the 'shard' model of exaltation, with discrete exalted essences that can be quantified, contained, and corrupted, then you need to re-explain the origin of the Abyssal and Infernal exalted.


                        "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.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Solana View Post
                          Every opportunity the book gets, it reminds you that this is -you-, that the person in the past was also you.
                          This is a problem called the Ship of Theseus. There's not an easy answer to it in real life; I don't expect a fantasy elf game to have an easy answer to it in a way that's intellectually satisfying.

                          Originally posted by Solana View Post
                          The alienation is only made more keen when you remember that this isn't actually a part of -you-, the original person.
                          Isn't it?

                          If you cut your thumb off, but doctors devised a means to regenerate limbs, would the regenerated thumb not be part of "you"?

                          ​Why does part of me getting added after some arbitrary cutoff point make it not-me? I didn't have my beard when I was five, but it's my beard. I don't have any tattoos, but if I got one, I'd sure as hell say it was my tattoo, and I'd consider it at least as much a part of me as my beard..

                          Originally posted by Solana View Post
                          It's something from without that decided you were an appropriately sized hermit crab shell, and is the source of all your greatness.
                          That's how 2e looked at it, but that's not the only way to look at it.
                          Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 01-14-2020, 08:58 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Solana View Post

                            Second Edition.
                            I don't care what second edition says. Where in third edition does it say that?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              There's a process in Scion that was created precisely because I was frustrated about the lack of clarity on this in Exalted. In the former system, it's called mantling, which is similar to how it happens in the Elder Scrolls series.

                              To summarize: you were Chosen by a deity for a reason. You were given a Caste for a reason. The nature of past lives and the continuity of self, and the themes underlying the succession of identity, means that your Exalt's personality traits, personal history, and decisions are reminiscent and resonant with the past Exaltation bearer. In other words, you are so close to that former bearer as to be indistinguishable from them on some deep and personal level, usually related to your caste. It is your prior incarnation rather than a past life.

                              Obviously, you are not the same person. That doesn't make any sense! They might be black, you might be white. Perhaps they fought with a sword and you with chakrams and martial arts. Yet you're both Twilight Castes, and have a deep fondness for tinkering with artifacts that goes back to your childhood, and ultimately influenced your career as a scavenger lord and theirs as a technical savant. You are not the same person, and yet, you really kinda are the same person. To the Unconquered Sun, you deserve the Exaltation as much as they did, and for the same reasons. Maybe someone said, "We shall not see his like again,"...and yet, here you are to put lie to that sentiment. You have incarnated once again, and your war banner is the exact same as your prior incarnation's.

                              Are you actually the same person? Are you completely different? The answer is deliberately obscure, since you're actually meant to argue about it in your own games and it's a topic upon which reasonable characters and players may differ. Maybe you deride your prior incarnations' war crimes in the last day of the First Age, and swear you'd never do such a thing. But are you denying the possibility within yourself that you might, under the same circumstances, choose exactly the same thing? Maybe a god comes to you demanding you fulfill a promise made in a prior life. You can tell that god to fuck off, sure...but can you really then lay claim to the daiklave slung across your back, forged for your incarnation so long ago? How can you lay claim to the benefits of incarnation and deride the debts?

                              Exalted gives you a few concrete details so you'll argue about it and struggle with doubt in- and out-of-character, and that's largely by design.


                              Neall Raemonn Price
                              Beleaguered Scion Developer

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X