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  • Exalted and childbirth

    I've been watching a lot of the BBC drama "Call the Midwife" recently. It's got me thinking a lot about the subject of childbirth.

    ​Since most of my interests tend to intersect with Exalted in my considerations at some point, and since Exalted has some particular factors concerning the subject, it has me speculating on a few things.

    Discussion of opinions would be all right, but I would also be interested if anybody who knows a bit more about the subject would be able to lend any perspective.

    I find that the biggest question on my mind concerns the line that previous Editions gave about how the Exalted never die as a result of childbirth.

    How do people think this might relate to subjects of certain complications? Do they simply never happen for the Exalted? Are they the kind of thing where the danger is going to be heavily shifted towards the foetus? Say, if there's a shoulder presentation and nobody around or qualified to perform a caesarean section, well, that baby is definitely not going to make it, but then there's the question of what is going to happen to a mother who cannot get it out and apparently cannot die from the body trying to force it.

    I wonder if the notion of them never dying might be rolled back a bit, or else should be looked upon as not so rigid that it would extend to even unbelievable cases.

    Indeed, as rules go, perhaps it would be better for me (and everybody else) to look on it less in terms of a description of the capabilities of the Exalted and more as a proscription on what might happen to player characters in a game. Although there is the question of the occasional non-player character...

    Or things that might be logical results of occurrences in play. Suppose somebody was playing Tepet Ejava's mother, insisting on being on the battlefield at the height of pregnancy, and some soldier or Anathema gets a lucky shot in that the Storyteller thinks would lend to the (acceptable to the group) dramatic complication of something going terribly wrong with the birth.

    But I'm digressing a bit, my main interest was in developing an image of the setting.

    With all of that in mind, I suppose there are a couple of other matters: on the one hand, some of these complications are rare in any case, the odds of that in any given Exalted pregnancy are naturally small; on the other, the Exalted can often be involved in dramatic events that could result in some late term complications.

    Anyway, do people have thoughts? Has anybody ever played a pregnant character, or in a game where the players were associated with one, and anything that could have led to complications coming up?


    I have approximate knowledge of many things.
    Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
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  • #2
    Haha! It is I, birth nerd who wrote that section in the DB book. I mean it might get cut for space but it was something I put thought into.

    The main causes of mortality in birth for the mother are avoided given the healing and sheer vitality of Exaltation. Even something like placenta praevia will be less of an issue for a character who is not going to bleed out, or suffer massive infection. Same with shoulder presentations - fourth degree tearing is less likely to be an issue, or breaking pubic bones, and Exalts are hale enough that they are unlikely to be in birth positions that exacerbate that (plus non-medicalised birth practices favour those positions).

    Not to mention that the question of 'mother or child' is heavily weighted to mother as an Exalt. So there would be some of the more horrifying interventions of the middle ages being used as well. So in severe cases of dystocia snapping the baby's collarbone would be fairly unremarkable (fun fact: this was the intervention used for my mother and three of her siblings back in the 50s). And if the baby is dead? It gets gruesome but they dealt with it back in pre-anaesthetic eras fairly competently. Google at your own risk.

    Same with injuries/accients close to birth. Mama gets prioritised, baby is still a mortal baby. Albeit with a bad ass protector. She is unlikely to suffer premature birth but it does happen. I tend to think babies of Exalted mamas are a little more hale than their counterparts, just because of the shared immune system and so on.

    It was a fun section to write, for a fairly horror-centric value of fun.


    ". ... for me, the transformative power of art is you are not above the material." -= Guillermo del Toro

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    • #3
      I'd think the general Exalted immunity to bleeding and blood loss should cover most of it, and the rest is best handled as first and foremost a narrative event with heavy player license. If you want it to be a big, dramatic scene, you might call for skill checks at appropriate intervals - Survival to scrounge supplies, Medicine to administer proper care for both mother and child, Resistance on the part of the mother herself. In your aforementioned battlefield scenario, perhaps Archery to pick off any hostiles who are getting too close for comfort. None of these should impose hard, binary limits on survival, but act to provide framing and set the tone for the scene (tense and frantic, I'd imagine).

      Above all else, DO NOT make any players get involved with such a scene if they aren't completely and expressly comfortable with it, and DO NOT pull any kind of Gygaxian, save-or-die "gotcha".

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      • #4
        Didn't the 2e Dragon-blooded book flatly say exalted mothers never suffer complications in childbirth or from pregnancy? Or it might have been another book.

        Anyways, I don't see why an Exalt would ever have issues with childbirth. They're immune to bleeding and nearly immune to infection, and can heal from the most grievous wounds. Because of that near immunity to infection and a shared immune system with the fetus, it wouldn't suffer infection either. I suppose miscarriages could happen, but only from something like a defect caused by mutation, and in those cases there'd still be no real risk to the mother's health - you'd just have a dead baby.

        Anyways, complications during pregnancy/childbirth are events of such personal, emotional, and narrative significance that I'd never include them unless the player wanted it to happen, for the character or for their character's wife, regardless of whether the player is an Exalt or not. I'd say the same for getting pregnant in the first place, too.

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        • #5
          Hmmm... fine.

          ​Incidentally, remember that breast feeding discussion? I'm still not sure how that interjects with historical instances of using wet nurses.


          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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          • #6
            Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
            Hmmm... fine.

            ​Incidentally, remember that breast feeding discussion? I'm still not sure how that interjects with historical instances of using wet nurses.

            Me?

            Wet nurses are historically used in situations where mama can't feed, or you have class issues about sex and bodies. The latter isn't gonna mean much to Exalts or DBs while the former might. In situations where women did habitually use wet nurses due to social reasons, there was an understanding about what that meant to mama (you'd have to treat her for mastitis. Fortunately most of the population had a passing knowledge about animals, esp cows, who suffer mastitis and know how to treat it. Whereas nowadays, most mamas who get mastitis need to be told what is happening, they've never seen a woman (or cow) suffering from it. There's a balance, treating mastitis sans antibiotics, between expressing enough to clear the infection but not so much as to increase production.

            In a society like the Realm, with Exalts being the top of the hierarchy in a culture where there isn't 'ew no not physicality' (i.e. Victorian era), wet nurses only make sense in a 'mama is on the battlefield'. Which is much less like the version of wet nursing where mama never feeds and poor lady with a supply does, and more like a co-nursing situation (which was also very common throughout history). I personally like the latter for the psycho-social bonds it creates as well.


            ". ... for me, the transformative power of art is you are not above the material." -= Guillermo del Toro

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            • #7
              But yeah, it is highly charged as a topic and is definitely not something to spring on players because, beyond anything else, miscarriage is awfully common and even more awfully silenced - do you wanna take the chance of upsetting a fellow player with that?


              ". ... for me, the transformative power of art is you are not above the material." -= Guillermo del Toro

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Thesaurasaurus View Post
                Above all else, DO NOT make any players get involved with such a scene if they aren't completely and expressly comfortable with it, and DO NOT pull any kind of Gygaxian, save-or-die "gotcha".
                I apply this motto to pretty much all things my players could conceivably get into. Not just related to pregnancy and miscarriage (none of my players have had the inclination to play a pregnant character) but just... In general. Don't spring any kind of major moments that could possibly render a character unplayable without permission.

                Lucy Darling - Thanks for your insight about Exalted and Dynastic mother norms. Those are actually pretty interesting.


                Disclaimer: I'll huff, grump, and defend my position, but if you're having fun I'll never say you're doing it wrong.

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                • #9
                  Thanks Kyman201 - not all of it is exactly how it ends up in the books, but it's a subject I find fascinating. And there's always scope for difference too, the Realm is large and contains multitudes. The there's Creation and I don't imagine there'd be less diversity than exists in our world too (just looking at contemporary birthing and parenting practices there's such a wide range as to make 'normal' fairly useless beyond 'want mother and child to survive').

                  I only ever played a character getting pregnant once, and it turned into a weird metaphysical thing with an Infernal, Sidereals, and so on involved. It was also an email game so I had time to work out my own responses to stuff. It's an incredibly powerful thing, so I think it deserves more respect than it often gets (rpgs or real life really).


                  ". ... for me, the transformative power of art is you are not above the material." -= Guillermo del Toro

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                  • #10
                    Considering from another weird point of view, just looking at the people who made the exalted back then, it was during a time where they fought against primordial all the times. The UCS certainly didn't want pregnancy or childbirth to get in the way of kicking asses, or being able to keep going to war. Basically the exalted were made as weapons first and to keep functioning as weapons even in the most unlikely conditions and situations.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Eltacolibre View Post
                      Basically the exalted were made as weapons first and to keep functioning as weapons even in the most unlikely conditions and situations.
                      I think it's worth pointing out that 3E is downplaying this idea, with the focus going forward being that the Incarnae imparted brave heroes with a touch of their own divine natures. They weren't designed, in that the Unconquered Sun could not have made his Chosen any differently, for to do so would require his nature to be other than it is.

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                      • #12
                        As wandering states. It isn't exactly hard to make the leap from "heroes shouldn't die to bleeding out or infection, so exalts don't" to "dead in childbirth is the story for the parent of a hero, not the hero themselves, so exalts don't". Or in less narratively driven terms, the same hardiness that protects Exalted from dying of disease and bleeding, protects an Exalted mother from dying to complications of childbirth".

                        And possibly yeah, her own hardiness gives the infant a touch of it themselves (barring exceptional circumstances like "a god cursed the child to never draw breath" or "the player feels still birth would be a more significant story"), at least until they're born, at which point they live and die from the conditions of environment more than heritage.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by IgnisDomini View Post
                          Didn't the 2e Dragon-blooded book flatly say exalted mothers never suffer complications in childbirth or from pregnancy? Or it might have been another book.
                          Manual of Exalted Power: Dragonblooded, page 22. Complications are not excluded, but a dragonblooded mother's pregnancy is a bit unusual.

                          It claims that a Dragonblooded pregnancy lasts a full 15 month year, does not begin to show until the fifth month, and the mother can remain as active as otherwise for the first 12 months with no danger to herself and child. Implying there needs to be some slow down during the last three months.

                          Additionally there needs to be a five year break between pregnancies or the mother starts to age rapidly.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Lucy Darling View Post
                            In a society like the Realm, with Exalts being the top of the hierarchy in a culture where there isn't 'ew no not physicality' (i.e. Victorian era), wet nurses only make sense in a 'mama is on the battlefield'.
                            ​I don't know; I found the ideas of the Dynast notion of parenthood advocating distance and aloofness to be fairly plausible. Also maybe some ideas that, even sans body shame, nursing is something undignified for an upper class person.


                            Originally posted by Lucy Darling
                            I personally like the latter for the psycho-social bonds it creates as well.
                            Are those bonds it creates between Exalted, or between Exalted and mortals?



                            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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                            • #15
                              Greyman: 2e certainly handled it poorly, yes.

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