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  • Tyranny of the exarchs

    One thing I've learned reading over the threads of mage is that the supernal reflects truths. Much like spirits in the shadow, these Truths simply follow their nature (whether good or bad). Of course, they also seem to have much more agency and understanding of things beyond their nature.

    For the exarchs, though, I have a question. It's made pretty clear, or at least even the seers agree, that they are tyrannical truths. the Eye IS surveillance, the general IS conflict/violence, and so on.

    But despite being seen as "evil" are they really in a sense we understand? Wouldn't any other supernal being work to further their domain if they could like the exarchs? Or is the difference that they represent their truths as what they are through tyranny?

    I guess what I mean is, is the Eye really just the truth of surveillance, or the platonic Truth of surveillance limiting our actions by fear of being seen? Or is it simply a god being that through the faults of humanity managed to overtake everything else, therefore making them only tyrannical in the sense humanity has allowed it to get there? Are the exarchs truly consciously being evil as we understand it, or are they simply doing what they can to remain the dominant Truths?

  • #2
    Well, they're not symbols of Evil, but they're symbols of things like Tyranny through Surveillance, or Control, or Slavery, etc. Which tend to be considered evil in the sense people understand.

    Their overreach (to the point of having the Seers and trying to encase the world in the Black Iron Prison) seems to be part of their tyranny and overreach. Other symbols don't seem to be trying to dominate the world with themselves, the symbols of Water or Fire aren't trying to drown the entire world or burn everyone to a cinder, respectively. Still, it's been said a couple times that other Supernal entities do similar stuff but that hasn't been expanded upon much and the level of agency a symbol actually has seems up for debate. And that's even before you get into the issue of things not having always been symbols and that perhaps skewing their 'nature.'
    Last edited by nofather; 11-05-2021, 02:10 PM.

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    • #3
      The Exarchs are Supernal Symbols of Exerted Power Over a Populace with the Express Purpose of Keeping Themselves Where They Are and Everyone Else Below.

      Forms of governence are, like anything else, tools you apply to deal with situations and answers problems with. For example, authoritarianism may be seen as undesirable in the average situation. but if you're on, say, a colony ship that needs everyone playing a part, and most often specifically the part they're on there for, it's pretty easy to see how anything less than an authoritarian structure can cause the entire plan to fall apart and waste a lot of resources and planning, nevermind the risk to human lives on a micro and macro scale (depending, of course, on the context). As another example, one of the bigger problems with democracy, particularly a democracy that tries to give power to minority voices in a system, is that it tends to result in a slower system, which means it can take longer for certain projects to get done-so it depends on where efficiency or equality matters more, and to be fair, sometimes a governence does need to prioritize getting shit done....but just as often, the "get shit done" argument is used to trample over the rights of the few.

      Tyranny, though, if we accept it as a form of governence and not what it actually is, has very minimal situations where it's the desireable tool for the scenario, because it's less flexible and correspondingly (and ironically) less specialized than, say, simple garden variety authoritarianism, which makes it less useful for addressing problems. And that's because Tyranny is functionally not about utility, but a vice-an unerring hunger for power often rendered as a result of a fear of vulnerability, but leaving it at just that is reductive.

      So the thing where this all matters is that you don't really have to look further than how the Iron Pyramid is structured and how advancement works within it to see that the Exarchs aren't interested simply in Surveillance, Violence ,Tribalism, Devotion and more as tools to apply to a problem, but are actively interested in using those to ensure that they stay as the dominant symbols of power, and the rest of reality under heel. The simple fact that the Iron Pyramid says "Service to Exarchs will be rewarded" and "The way to advance is to kick everyone beneath you down, and rip everyone above you off" tells you that they want people working together to serve their purposes while working against each other to keep from having really pay out the actual end game as little as possible.

      There are Supernal Symbols of just Violence, just Surveillance, just Tribalism, just Devotion, etc, etc-the Diamond Orders and Free Council both frequently employ them, in fact. Where things get interesting is when those in the Pentacle Alliance stop using them as tools as appropriate to the scenario...and start using them to Make More of just Themselves. It happens more often than they'd like to admit.
      Last edited by ArcaneArts; 11-05-2021, 06:35 PM.


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      • #4
        Originally posted by Primordial newcomer View Post
        Wouldn't any other supernal being work to further their domain if they could like the exarchs?
        Maybe? Like, the Silver Ladder kinda think that. For them, (at least in 1e) the celestial ladder was about subordinating the Supernal to humanity; the Exarchs just betrayed them at the last moment and imposed even more invasive supernal symbols.


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        • #5
          Sorry for the late reply everyone, I'll address everyone individually. I would use quotations but I'm bad at using them here

          nofather I do think it's important to point out that, yes, other entities don't seem to be doing such things, but one must also remember not only the pax arcana, but the stranglehold the exarchs have in the supernal. They have other supernal beings following them, and along the Pax, this means other supernals must be more cautious exercising their influence.

          ArcaneArts very interesting perspective there. I neglected to view tyranny through the view point of as vice. Admittedly I've been looking at it purely through the view of "form of oppressive gov. through authoritarianism"

          Still though, I do agree the Iron Pyramid certainly displays the exarchal need to stay in power. But, it also does show that one CAN rise through the ranks and even get to the exarchs side, as confirmed by the Hegemonian seer who ascended after creating the Hive Soul (I believe he is the Progenitor now). Now that's a nitpick of an argument I'll admit, since OVERALL the pyramid keeps seers squabbling over petty (comparatively) power plays, but it's there. Also funny you mention the pentacle using other related supernal symbols. I bet the Ladder and Guardians have some shady supernal dealings (not to mention, I wonder what beings the Council trucks with, considering Democracy Seeks Truth)

          Michael I learned that recently actually! I only knew of the diamond version of its use being merely corrupted by overeager (still mortal) exarchs

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Primordial newcomer View Post
            but one must also remember not only the pax arcana, but the stranglehold the exarchs have in the supernal.
            But you repeat yourself.

            Know that a tyrant is classically a usurper who got their power through channels other than the established ones, that discouraging others from following suit to them personally is a pretty common policy for freshly-minted tyrants, that unWise use of magic is equated with hubris (i.e. putting your desires above the natural/social/divine/established order) and the mechanics for Supernal expressions of Exarchal power put them very low on the Wisdom scale (the Artifacts Reign of the Exarchs is centered around all degrade your Wisdom and the Exarchs were the basis for the gameline's first look at ochemata, including the "they count as Wisdom 1 for the purposes of Paradox" rule that applies thereto).

            The Pax Arcanum says that beings powerful enough to manipulate the Supernal are not to take any actions that threaten the existence of humanity and/or the world. The de facto rulers of the world obviously have a vested interest in upholding that one, but so does anyone who isn't a particular variety of Aswadim or Alienated.

            The Pax Arcanum says not to use Imperial spells — spells that include a whole bunch of perpetually self-propagating and/or absolute effects beyond even Mastery's raw power of creation and destruction — to directly attack the interests of other beings powerful enough to manipulate the Supernal. Again, the Tyrants have an obvious incentive to uphold this one, and they're scary enough that other archmasters in the same entente or looking to curry favor will intervene against you under the auspices of remedying a Pax violation.

            The Pax Arcanum says archmasters and the Ascended aren't to use their knowledge to rule over Travelers. The Tetrarchs are right there if you had any doubts about how fairly the Exarchs seek to enforce this one.

            Symbols are messy and the Exarchs in particular are an identification nightmare, but the common ground the Exarchs operate under is putting oneself above others. The really obvious example is that the General is the thing from which all forms of rule by violence are derived, so any time a mage settles a dispute with the Duel Arcane they're technically tapping into the General — and that applies up the great chain of being such that other gods pulling the whole might-makes-right form of legendary tableau is paying lip service to the General, too.

            Other Supernal beings might try to further their domains, but the tools they can most readily use to do so will never dismantle the house the Exarchs built.


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            Currently Consuming: Demon: the Descent 1e

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Satchel View Post
              But you repeat yourself.

              Know that a tyrant is classically https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tyrant#Noun"]a usurper who got their power through channels other than the established ones[/URL], that discouraging others from following suit to them personally is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2xakGZvLjI"]a pretty common policy for freshly-minted tyrants[/URL], that unWise use of magic is equated with hubris (i.e. putting your desires above the natural/social/divine/established order) and the mechanics for Supernal expressions of Exarchal power put them very low on the Wisdom scale (the Artifacts Reign of the Exarchs is centered around all degrade your Wisdom and the Exarchs were the basis for the gameline's first look at ochemata, including the "they count as Wisdom 1 for the purposes of Paradox" rule that applies thereto).

              The Pax Arcanum says that beings powerful enough to manipulate the Supernal are not to take any actions that threaten the existence of humanity and/or the world. The de facto rulers of the world obviously have a vested interest in upholding that one, but so does anyone who isn't a particular variety of Aswadim or Alienated.

              The Pax Arcanum says not to use Imperial spells — spells that include a whole bunch of perpetually self-propagating and/or absolute effects beyond even Mastery's raw power of creation and destruction — to directly attack the interests of other beings powerful enough to manipulate the Supernal. Again, the Tyrants have an obvious incentive to uphold this one, and they're scary enough that other archmasters in the same entente or looking to curry favor will intervene against you under the auspices of remedying a Pax violation.

              The Pax Arcanum says archmasters and the Ascended aren't to use their knowledge to rule over Travelers. The Tetrarchs are right there if you had any doubts about how fairly the Exarchs seek to enforce this one.

              Symbols are messy and the Exarchs in particular are an identification nightmare, but the common ground the Exarchs operate under is putting oneself above others. The really obvious example is that the General is the thing from which all forms of rule by violence are derived, so any time a mage settles a dispute with the Duel Arcane they're technically tapping into the General — and that applies up the great chain of being such that other gods pulling the whole might-makes-right form of legendary tableau is paying lip service to the General, too.

              Other Supernal beings might try to further their domains, but the tools they can most readily use to do so will never dismantle the house the Exarchs built.
              Aren't aren't all ochemata wisdom 1? I thought it was the same for other ascended and archmages

              As for Tyrants getting through other channels, that is true. Isn't that an argument with muddied waters though. After all, it's in myth, and even if myth is true, the Tyrants essentially re-wrote the laws of reality itself in order to become a Tyrants from the beginning.

              All good points on Pax arcanum

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Primordial newcomer View Post
                Aren't aren't all ochemata wisdom 1? I thought it was the same for other ascended and archmages
                They are. (Or rather, they aren't — they don't actually have Wisdom, but the trait is counted as 1 for them for the purposes of Paradox.) I'm saying that literally the first look the line had at ochemata was as avatars of the Exarchs, and their being treated as though they were the least Wise type of mage for the purposes of seeing how badly their magic goes haywire was baked into the rules for them presented in that book.

                (It also wasn't until Imperial Mysteries that we got the specification that the ochemata of the unAscended weren't painful to look at, and the presentation in Seers of the Throne describes that quality as being vastly out of harmony with the rest of their symbolism, which carries forward into the description of the Exarchates in Imperial Mysteries.)

                As for Tyrants getting through other channels, that is true. Isn't that an argument with muddied waters though. After all, it's in myth, and even if myth is true, the Tyrants essentially re-wrote the laws of reality itself in order to become a Tyrants from the beginning.
                They bodily Ascended to the heavens, cast down a number of immortal Old Gods, and brought forth a tide of ignorance from which the world has yet to recover, none of which had been thought possible before. They did this chiefly by exploiting the crowning achievement of a wizard utopia that broke the spine of the world when it collapsed. It's hard to get much more "seized power through illegitimate means" than "had to break reality first."


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                Currently Consuming: Demon: the Descent 1e

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                  They are. (Or rather, they aren't — they don't actually have Wisdom, but the trait is counted as 1 for them for the purposes of Paradox.) I'm saying that literally the first look the line had at ochemata was as avatars of the Exarchs, and their being treated as though they were the least Wise type of mage for the purposes of seeing how badly their magic goes haywire was baked into the rules for them presented in that book.

                  (It also wasn't until Imperial Mysteries that we got the specification that the ochemata of the unAscended weren't painful to look at, and the presentation in Seers of the Throne describes that quality as being vastly out of harmony with the rest of their symbolism, which carries forward into the description of the Exarchates in Imperial Mysteries.)

                  They bodily Ascended to the heavens, cast down a number of immortal Old Gods, and brought forth a tide of ignorance from which the world has yet to recover, none of which had been thought possible before. They did this chiefly by exploiting the crowning achievement of a wizard utopia that broke the spine of the world when it collapsed. It's hard to get much more "seized power through illegitimate means" than "had to break reality first."
                  Gotcha on the ochemata

                  I was saying that the origins of th exarchs is myth, and even if it isn't myth, they likely edited reality in a way that erased that time. In essence, they may, through that loophole, have never gained such power in that manner

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Primordial newcomer View Post
                    I was saying that the origins of th exarchs is myth, and even if it isn't myth, they likely edited reality in a way that erased that time. In essence, they may, through that loophole, have never gained such power in that manner
                    That may well have been the plan, however we know that clearly something didn't quite work that way. As Satchel mentioned, their symbolism for whatever reason is off.

                    Also, Ascension/Archmastery already wipes out much of your history; the manner in which you ascend is what influences the symbol you become. Once you ascend, the events in the Fallen leading to it are basically irrelevant.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Michael View Post

                      That may well have been the plan, however we know that clearly something didn't quite work that way. As Satchel mentioned, their symbolism for whatever reason is off.

                      Also, Ascension/Archmastery already wipes out much of your history; the manner in which you ascend is what influences the symbol you become. Once you ascend, the events in the Fallen leading to it are basically irrelevant.
                      Ahh ok, I didn't realize that part of ascension. So basically, whether or not reality is edited to get rid of certain specifics, the metaphysical symbolic truth is kept intact?

                      If so, then sorry Satchel, I did not realize that.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                        They bodily Ascended to the heavens, cast down a number of immortal Old Gods, and brought forth a tide of ignorance from which the world has yet to recover, none of which had been thought possible before. They did this chiefly by exploiting the crowning achievement of a wizard utopia that broke the spine of the world when it collapsed. It's hard to get much more "seized power through illegitimate means" than "had to break reality first."
                        I think it's worth pointing out that Second Edition presents that element as mostly being the mythology of the Seers of the Throne, driven primarily by the need to believe that there's a road to joining the ranks of the Exarchs. If the Diamond Orders care about determining events to the Fall that might give an origin to the Exarchs, my impression is that such a thing is a pretty esoteric subject. I'd say the Free Council outright believes that the Exarchs are symbols that represent how things play out with perfectly prosaic origins.

                        (Also, the ultimate description of Ascension moved away from the idea that the Exarchs Ascended bodily. All Ascension elevates body and soul; the sarira that remains behind is just a shell of the Nimbus.)

                        As far as the topic goes, I think any kind of statement about the Exarchs just doing what any kind of Supernal god in their position would amounts to equivocation and counterfactuals that are used to rationalise things in real life. "Oh, can you really say that things for Native Americans and African people would have been better if there hadn't been European colonisation and enslavement?" I don't really care dude, all I can assess are things that actually happened, and a bad thing is bad no matter what kind of hypothetical worse alternative you can develop.

                        And I think it's reasonable to say that the Exarchs go a few steps beyond what is typical of a high order Supernal symbol in a manner that gives them some kind of moral agency by virtue of the fact that they don't merely comfortably exist as principles that hold most of humanity in thrall, they actively intervene on various levels. And that they act in a manner demonstrating an understanding of human wills that would be opposed to them attributes enough of a form of empathy to carry an equal responsibility for the consequences of it.


                        I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                        Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Primordial newcomer View Post
                          Ahh ok, I didn't realize that part of ascension. So basically, whether or not reality is edited to get rid of certain specifics, the metaphysical symbolic truth is kept intact?
                          Yeah. It's implied through 1e but Appendix Two: Legends of the Fall in the 2e core is pretty explicit. That's why it's the Time Before rather than just an event in the past.


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                          • #14
                            Well technically what the Second Edition core says is that the lives of people that have Ascended become strongly subject to the Quiescence; the events still happened, but Sleepers can't fully grasp them. If you leave behind a mortal child, that person will still exist and even remember you as their parent, but will only recall you in vague, wistful terms and resist attempts to focus on the topic of you (while people more distantly removed will quickly stop giving you any mind at all). Mages, not being subject to the Quiescence, remain fully capable of remembering a departed person, although it would seem the act of Ascension gives one's life and history the qualities of Mystery; the information is present, but tends not to propagate directly, people investigating it need to come from obscure angles. The concealment seems a lot like what the Mysterium calls pancryptia.

                            I think this is a bit distinct from the subject of Aponoia, the phenomenon of inexpert touching of the Supernal causing deep and retroactive changes in the Phenomenal experienced by metamorphic Awakenings, mages who interfere too much in other Awakenings and archmasters who successfully cross the Threshold. That one's more like leaving fingerprint smudges as you touch the Platonic Forms. Golden Road Ascensions, on the other hand, would seem to kind of transfigure certain aspects of your personal history into something mythic, iconic; not wiped out, but removed from what most people (even mages) regard as within the realms of the possible.


                            I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                            Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                              I think it's worth pointing out that Second Edition presents that element as mostly being the mythology of the Seers of the Throne, driven primarily by the need to believe that there's a road to joining the ranks of the Exarchs. If the Diamond Orders care about determining events to the Fall that might give an origin to the Exarchs, my impression is that such a thing is a pretty esoteric subject. I'd say the Free Council outright believes that the Exarchs are symbols that represent how things play out with perfectly prosaic origins.

                              (Also, the ultimate description of Ascension moved away from the idea that the Exarchs Ascended bodily. All Ascension elevates body and soul; the sarira that remains behind is just a shell of the Nimbus.)
                              Right, but the mythology is the mythology, and at that point in the mythology, nobody had ever Ascended before and magical power was attained through Astral pilgrimage and/or following the dragon dreams. If the consequences of Ascension were known in the Time Before, our hypothetical once-human Exarchs take a very different place in the narrative than just "they were working with the rest of the Diamond's mythic forebears and screwed them over at the finish line" and the blindness of the other Atlantean mages enters the moral dimension of gross ignorance, stupidity, or evil.

                              Yes, the Seers attempt to paint the Exarchs as worthy of emulation in their own pursuit of power despite clearly not having their best interests at heart (see what happens to the Ministers over time, what happens to Prelates' Oneiroi, etc), mostly on the basis of "RIP to the other guys, but I'm different." That doesn't really undo the fact that the mythology of the Exarchs that paints them as former humans is also a mythology that paints them as… Tyrants. A bunch of folks who seized power illegitimately and then set up the world to entrench their own place in it regardless of the cost to reality.

                              It's worth knowing that these things are esoteric, but it doesn't really need to be pointed out in response to a discussion of the mythological basis for calling the Exarchs tyrants in a classical sense.


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