Shards of Exaltation

Zenith (Exalted)

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   So you want to make a quasi-Exalt? The first step is pretty simple; you want to break down what an Exalt gets that a mortal – or god-blooded character – does not.

   So what, exactly, does Exaltation do for you?

   To examine that, we’ll want to check what “basic Exalts” get – that is, a newly-Exalted Solar, Outcaste Dragon-Blooded, newly Exalted Lunar, and Ronin Sidereals. We’re really not interested in the results of experience and training.

  Mortal God-

Blood

Outcaste Solar Lunar Sidereal
Attributes 6/4/3 6/5/3 7/6/4 8/6/4 8/6/4 8/6/4
Abilities 25+3 25 25 28 25 25
Favored Ab. 1 1 8 10 2 (4) 9
Backgrounds 5 6 7 7 7 7
Virtues 5 5 5 5 5 5
Essence 1 1 2 2 2 2
Charms 7 10 8 8
Bonus 21 21 15 15 15 15

   Well, that is sort of consistent. It’s also fairly obvious from the setting material and the table – with a possible exception for the Lunars, who have favored attributes instead of abilities – that it’s best to be a Solar, so I’ll break down one of those.

   A Solar Exalt receives a number of advantages over a Heroic Mortal. He or she:

  • Gets five additional attribute dots, although these cannot raise their attributes above five.
  • Gets nine additional favored abilities, although five of them are preset.
  • Starts out at Essence two and may purchase a higher essence.
  • Gets access to a charm list and ten free charms – but must pay all associated costs themselves.
  • Gets enhanced healing and damage-resisting abilities, including the ability to resist lethal damage with Stamina and a greatly-extended lifespan.
  • Gets to round his or her parry and dodge scores up rather than down.
  • Gets one more die from his or her stunts.
  • Gets an anima banner with a special anima power.
  • Gets some special privileges thanks to the creation-ruling mandate and some special privileges thereby.
  • Scares normal people.
  • Gets +2 points worth of Backgrounds.
  • Gets six fewer Bonus Points.

   So, just what IS an “exaltation”?

   Well, they were designed by Autochthon, the Great Artificer, and then the various Incarna, with Autochthon’s help, created hundreds of the things. The Alchemical sourcebook calls these plans “the technology of exaltation” – and notes that “once the gods had crafted their Exaltations, and their Chosen had been selected and trained into an army, Autochthon called forth his children, the Mountain Folk, to present the Exalted with a powerful arsenal of magical weaponry.”

   Moreover, the Alchemical Exalted continue to be built – by mortals. Enhanced mortals, yes – but mortals.

   So “Exaltations” were built.

   What gets built?

   Artifacts and Manses get built – and Exaltations are certainly not Manses. Ergo, they’re Artifacts. That’s fitting enough; Autochthon is the Great Artificer, and the Exaltations are of his design. Exaltations may be immaterial – at least outside of Yu-Shan – but they’re still artifacts. If we want to make a mortal into an exalt, we’ll need to give him or her an Artifact – and a very powerful one. One worth of being an indirect creation of Autochthon.

   What sort of Artifact will our quasi-exalt need?

   It can’t be taken away or unattuned. Ever. Ergo, it will need to be the equivalent of a Tattoo Artifact. There’s no cost modifier there though.

   Our Artifact design will have to account for the things that the Solar Exalted get. They…

  • Get five additional attribute dots, although these cannot raise their attributes above five.

   A bonus attribute dot is a mere Class-A power, making a set of five with a limitation a Class-C power.

  • Get nine additional favored abilities, although five of them are preset, the grand total cannot exceed ten, and you can only opt to favor abilities that you already have at least one dot in, which limits the benefit somewhat.

   Well, upgrading an ability by +2 is a basic Class-A artifact power. In fact, if you just took a +2 it would cost you 6 XP and three weeks of training time (or the use of some special ability to bypass that time) to get from one die to five dice. With a “favored” ability you need sixteen points to do the same – although you do save the training time. Still, three weeks usually doesn’t mean much to an Exalt, and the +2 adder would let you get to seven dice in the skill without waiting to become an elder exalt. It looks like the +2 die adder is a good deal better. The fact that you get to pick four of them yourself is an upgrade though; artifact benefits are usually fixed.

   Ergo, that’s two Class-A powers for the preset “favored abilities” and four Class-A powers for the ones you get to pick. Six class-A powers is borderline between a Class-C and Class-D power – but all that extra XP cost and the delayed benefit (no instant boost here!) definitely brings things down quite a lot. I’ll peg this function at Class-B.

  • Start out at Essence two and may purchase new charms and a higher essence relatively cheaply.

   Now this one is tricky… Essence increase is fairly straightforward, but how do we rate allowing people to buy new charms of a particular type?

   Oh, wait – there’s an existing charm in the basic book for this: Power Awarding Prana. It’s not a very good charm though; it only works on an Essence-1 unenlightened character – which means that, as soon as your target gets used to handling essence, and becomes an enlightened mortal, it quits working. In many cases it probably quits working before the recipient has enough time to learn any charms; mortal enlightenment is actually pretty easy to acquire (there’s a thaumaturgic ritual that will do it in a day – at some risk – while Soul-enlightening Beneficence [Lore 4, Ess 3, from the Scroll of the Monk] allows a mortal to trade in a point of willpower for a point of essence and instant enlightenment).

   Ergo, we’ll need an upgrade:

   Infusion of Celestial Grace

  • Cost: 15m, 1wp; Mins: Lore 5, Essence 3; Type: Simple
  • Keywords: Combo-OK, Touch
  • Duration: Indefinite
  • Prerequisite Charms: Power-Awarding Prana (Or similar):
  • This charm targets a heroic mortal character. It increases his or her effective essence by +1, increases his or her essence pool to (5 x Essence) + (2x Willpower) + (Virtue Sum), and allows him to regain Essence as a Solar Exalt. The target may learn Solar Charms with the normal training time for 10 experience points each. The target has access to this increased Essence pool and to those Charms only when actively under the influence of Infusion of Celestial Grace (i.e., for only as long as the awarding Solar’s Essence motes remain committed).

   The Lore 5 Essence 4 version – Benison of Celestial Enlightenment – increases the essence pool multiplier to (10 x Essence) and allows the recipient to buy up his or her base essence past the heroic mortal limitation of three – although that increase only applies as long as they are under the effects of this charm unless they transcend their mortal nature in some other fashion.

   I think we can assume the existence of related charms – probably requiring less in the way of committed essence – which provide access to other charmsets, and lesser essence pools. I suspect that anyone under the effects of such a charm on a long-term or permanent basis will find it easier to develop related and in-theme abilities – which neatly explains the minor variations between the experience point costs for the various Exalts and normal humans.

   Now, we’ll want the Essence Four version, which calls for a Class-D power when you put it into an artifact. Fortunately, as an Artifact, we don’t have to worry about it keeping the motes committed; it becomes a permanent effect as long as the user has the Artifact attuned.

  • Get ten charms – but must pay all of the associated costs (motes, willpower, etc) to actually use them.

   This one is a pretty big one. An artifact power that provides a charm function is generally Class-A for Essence One charms, Class-B for Essence Two charms, and so on. Still, having to power them yourself brings that down by two steps. Thus simple access to a Charm of anything through Essence Three is a mere Class-A power. More importantly, unlike the usual artifact, you have to be qualified to use the charms you pick anyway – which neatly makes up for getting to pick them and for the possibility of gaining access to a few higher-level charms. Ten Class-A powers is slightly over the usual limit for a Class-D power (which generally covers up to eight mere Class-A powers) – but a lot of them will have to be basic starting charms, which neatly makes up for that. Ergo, this is a Class-D power.

  • Gets enhanced healing and damage-resisting abilities – including the ability to resist lethal damage with Stamina and a greatly-extended lifespan.

   There are a couple of ways to go about doing that. The Touch of Grace spirit charm (Essence Two) can grant the recipient most of the health benefits and other incidental benefits of the Exalted, as can mere Thaumaturgy – although it might take a couple of effects unless we go by the Six Demons Potion from First Edition (a mortal user was treated as Exalted for all purposes, gained two points of Valor and Willpower, and gained a +1 to all of his or her Physical attributes, as well as to Wits and Perception).

   That would also cover the improved Stunting, and getting to round up Parry and Dodge scores.

   In this case, it’s probably easiest to build this as an upgraded (Essence Three) version of the Touch of Grace charm. That makes this a Class-C power.

  • When the user dies, the Exaltation automatically returns to Lytek to be re-assigned – unless diverted by very powerful magic. At best, that’s a Class-B power (after you’re dead, your artifact goes away; what a benefit!), so I’ll peg it there.
  • Now, to eliminate the Attunement Cost, a Shard of Exaltation needs the Self-Powered ability at Class-B (reducing the attunement cost to 5 motes or to 10 as a “Tattoo Artifact”) and a Class-A mote-storing function (boosting the user’s essence pool by ten motes). Technically that’s not a zero attunement cost – which conforms to the restrictions of a “Tattoo Artifact” – but it might as well be.
  • Finally, we come to what amounts to a package of Merits and Flaws.
    • Solars get six fewer bonus points than mortals. That’s (-6).
    • Solars get +2 Backgrounds. That’s (2).
    • Having an Anima Banner is a (-4) mutation – but being able to use an Anima Banner Power at the cost of 5 Motes and 1 Willpower is a (+4) mutation. Eliminating the Mote and Willpower cost is reasonably another (+4), for a net cost of (+4).

   That brings us to a net cost of… zero. Well, there’s no real problem there. Allowing a character to pick up an extra -4 limitation is a pretty undramatic power – Class-A at best.

   Ergo, our artifact needs:

  • Class-C Attribute Boosting.
  • Class-B Favored Abilities.
  • Class-D Essence Upgrade and Charm Access.
  • Class-D Charm Bestowal.
  • Class-C Secondary Enhancements.
  • Class-B Returning to Lytek.
  • Class-B Self-Powering.
  • Class-A Mote Storing.
  • Class-A Flaw Allowance.

   That’s 2x Class-D, 2x Class-C, 3x Class-B, and 2x Class-A powers. Well, two Class-A powers equal one Class-B power, and two Class-B’s equal one Class-C, and so on, up to the limit of Class-E – so that’s equivalent to two Class-E powers, the maximum allowable. In other words, this thing is a perfect, optimized, design; the rest of the exalted are represented by slightly lesser, flawed, versions.

   Why is that no surprise?

   So our Artifact Design is Power 10, Usefulness 5, and Plot Impact 5. It doesn’t need Script Immunity because it’s a Tattoo Artifact – and hence cannot be damaged or taken away. That gives it a net rating of (20/4) = *****.

   That makes sense; N/A artifacts are generally unique – and the Incarna turned these things out by the hundreds. Admittedly, they had help and they are incredibly powerful – but they were also operating under the noses of the Primordials and had a lot of other things to do. Ergo, a rating of N/A seems unlikely – but Rating ***** works out pretty well. If you threw in enough exotic components you might even be able to bring it down to a four-dot device (for construction purposes), which would help the Incarna turn them out over the course of a few centuries of preparation.

   So now we know how someone becomes a Celestial Exalted: A deity – most often Lytek – drops by invisibly and intangibly and bonds a more-or-less normal mortal with a free five-dot artifact. The Dragon-Blooded are a little different; their power comes from Gaia, who – as a primordial – simply creates and unmakes temporary “artifacts” out of her nigh-infinite geomantic reserves of raw essence as needed. Those still pass through Lytek’s hands, since he determines when a Draagon-Blooded will Exalt – but they’re attuned to individuals, and can’t be re-used anyway. That’s also why the Dragon-Blooded have a harder time learning charms, and raising their essence, than the Celestial Exalted; Gaia’s creations are temporary, and she does a sloppier job.

   Now, why hasn’t anyone – at least anyone other than the artificers of Autochthon – ever done this?

   Well… most of the lesser gods aren’t going to even dream of infringing on the territory of the Incarna. The Primordials, Yozi’s, and Neverborn – like the other creatures of the Wyld – are pretty well bound to their personal shticks, and grandiose Artificing was Autochthon’s thing, not theirs. By the time the Exalted of the First Age were capable of making such artifacts, and had the leisure to do so, they were well under the influence of the Great Curse – and inquiring into the sources of their power, and sharing it with others as equals, probably was not a part of their mindset. The Fey have no reason to make such things, and even the Jadeborn have trouble making rank-five Artifacts – and would probably never dream of making Exaltations even if the notion ever occurred to them and they’ve ever researched the project. After all, if Autochthon didn’t make any Exaltations personally (as far as they know anyway), there was probably a good reason. The Deathlords might be able to make rank-5 artifacts, but the whole “bestowing power” thing goes against their entire philosophy of destruction.

   Which pretty much leaves… nobody.

   There are two things left to cover yet though – the Great Curse and the Creation Ruling Mandate.

   Neither, of course, is actually a part of the Exaltation, although the Great Curse is presumably attached to it. After all, if it was an external effect it would probably be a lot harder to hide. Whether or not it would extend to any new Exaltations is a question for individual game masters – but it seems unlikely unless, perhaps, the new Exalts give it an opening by accepting the Creation Ruling Mandate.

   The Creation Ruling Mandate, of course, is merely an executive order; the Unconquered Sun simply delegated some of his authority to the Exalted. Now there may be something mystical about that of course – the Unconquered Sun is one of the most powerful magical beings in the cosmos and his directives presumably carry some magical weight – but it certainly isn’t an inherent part of Exaltation; otherwise he wouldn’t have needed to decree it. 

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4 Responses

  1. Ha – I went looking carefully, thinking you’d forget about the -6 Freebie points. But nope, it’s been carefully noted and incorporated into the design. I love it!

    • Well that’s White Wolf; while the breakdown does make a lot of assumptions… like so much White Wolf material, the theme and description of Exaltation promises a lot more than their mechanics can actually support.

      Of course, that’s to be expected, after all…

      “YOU are a Solar Exalt, a God-King! A single Solar can – and WILL – CHANGE THE WORLD! Oh yeah… There have been countless thousands of them before YOU, almost all of which accomplished nothing we’ve bothered to note – and what we have noted is almost always generically vague or disastrous – since they were all stuck carrying NPC idiot-balls throughout their entire lives. We couldn’t write rules that actually justified that, so we’ve left making it work that way up to the GM.”

      • Coe to think of it, the Great Curse might actually be such a small and weak (but very persistent) effect that it’s too small for the Gods to usually notice anyway. Almost all you’d need was a slight weakening of self-control, a slight strengthening of ego. Given a long enough time and the growing exalt powers, almost anybody would start to get more and more distant friom human sanity.

      • Sadly, despite the fact that it’s one of the foundations of the setting… the mechanics of the Curse are terrible (and don’t really fit the described effects) – and how it works or was created is completely undefined. The usual “we couldn’t come up with an explanation!” under the standard “left so as not to restrict game masters!” guise.

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