Exalted – Twilight Voyages and the Reborn

Nozdryov. Illustration for Nikolai Gogol's Dea...

What do you mean “I’m Dead”? I don’t FEEL dead… I want a second opinion you Quack!

The “Reborn” got mentioned in the Chronicles – so a little bit of explaining is in order…

What is Death?

“You cannot resurrect the dead” is one of the common mantras of Exalted.

  • Yet even mere Thaumaturgy can transmigrate human souls into animal bodies, granting an extension of life even in nonhuman form (The North, Page 97).
  • Plants can be returned to life by a simple Hearthstone (Song of Life Stone, Oadenol’s Codex, page 100). Ergo, plants… simply cease to work, which apparently isn’t the same thing as dying. Evidently plants – having no souls – cannot die.
  • A higher soul may continue as a ghost without a lower soul, yet is not alive.
  • A higher soul may be grafted onto an animals soul, turning the animal into a familiar with a human intellect (Scroll of Kings, Page 61).
  • A lower soul may continue as a hungry ghost without a higher soul, yet is not alive.
  • Gods… do not have souls in the same way as humans, yet a human who gains essence four burns away his or her mortal shell to become a god. A creature that IS more or less a naked – unbound, and living – soul. Evidently there are less-than-vital bits of the soul that can be discarded while remaining alive.
  • The Ebon Dragon has a charm which allows it’s user to attune to the necrotic essence of the underworld and reverse that attunement.

Ergo, the body… is not important. Only the soul is – and it can move from body to body, and into new incarnations, without dying.

Thus Death – permanent and irrevocable – occurs when the bond between the higher and lower souls is broken. Lower souls normally soon decay or change irreversibly, dissolving into a burst of random motes unless somehow stabilized.

But a higher soul that passes through Lethe will emerge without memories, yet with a new lower soul attached and once more living – ready to be embodied once more.

So; now we know what Death is, and why “Resurrection” is impossible; once the bond between the higher and lower soul breaks, the character is dead – and the lower soul changes irrevocably, soon either becoming a monstrosity or dissolving.

There’s a brief period between the death of the body and the breaking of the link between the two pieces of the soul, but it may only be a few seconds long. That’s enough for a soul-transfer (or perhaps for emergency medical treatment of some arcane sort) – but not for much of anything else.

What is a lower soul?

  • According to the material about Autochthon, it stores the power a mortal accumulates through life.
  • According to the material from the Underworld and about Hungry Ghosts, it is the seat of emotion and instinct.

Connecting a new lower soul to a higher soul thus creates a new being, without the accumulated power of the higher souls previous life, with subtly different instincts, and with entirely different emotional commitments.

That’s not resurrection; it’s a new incarnation who happened to get some old memories.

That’s probably not a healthy thing. Remembering old emotions without feeling them has got to be difficult. Lethe… may not be nearly as obnoxious as most people think. Without Lethe some part of them might make it into their higher souls next incarnation – but THEY would still be dead. Memories are important, but – shorn of the emotions that give them meaning – they are not
enough.

So; you can’t make a ghost “alive” again, you can just create a new being that happens to have it’s memories.

That’s probably fairly easily – but who cares? Most ghosts recognize that “ceasing to be” is indeed “ceasing to be” – and that there may not be much to choose between oblivion and rebirth through Lethe; sure, your wiped-clean higher soul may be being recycled – but so is your old flesh, and the worms feeding on it aren’t “you” in any meaningful sense either.

Some mortals… are not content with that.

And it’s hard to blame them.

Twilight Voyages (Terrestrial Martial Art)

Twilight Voyages is slow, drifting, meditative form related to Tai Chi and the Rejuvenating Manual. It focuses on inner unity and control, rather than on flashy external abilities. It really isn’t any use in combat – but it is one of the ultimate forms of self-defense. It allows the user to strengthen the bond with his or her lower soul – and even to bind additional lower souls to his or her higher one – so as to avoid actually dying unless they’re then eliminated by effects that kill spirits.

Most of the rest of the “charms” it offers revolve around nothing more than learning to use the options that having additional lower souls offers.

Exalts can learn this art if they wish – but their Exaltations take up all the places where an additional lower soul could bond to a higher soul. Ergo they can’t practice most of it – and if an early practitioner exalts, the exaltation will displace any extra lower souls he or she may have.

Extra Lower Souls  1  2  3  4  5
Minimum Will  6  7  8  9  10
Maximum Essence  3  4  4  4  5
Mote Pool Bonus  +10  +10  +20  +20  +30

Whether fortunately or unfortunately, there are side effects:

  • With one or more extra lower souls it becomes difficult to resist your instincts. All virtue checks lose one die. On the other hand, the user may have one extra motivation per extra lower soul and three more intimacies than usual per lower soul.
  • With two or more extra lower souls, the character is no longer human enough to Exalt. On the other hand, the user is considered a supernatural being – and thus stunts, heals, respires, and resists injury, as an Exalt.
  • With three or more extra lower souls Reborn become unable to work together; their emotions are now so strong, and their personalities so intense and complex, that they invariably clash.
  • With four or more extra lower souls all your virtue checks lose two dice, and instincts begin to dominate – and it will become obvious to everyone you interact with that you are extremely unnatural. On the other hand, each lower soul now respires independently, allowing you to regain motes more quickly than usual.
  • With five extra lower souls your personality is so dominating that you are guaranteed to make enemies – and powerful ones. You gain the Enemies flaw at ****, but do gain the ability to create combos; you are no longer even remotely human.

And here are some quick descriptions of the charms…

  • Transmigration Of Souls -> Spirit Binds The Flesh
  • |
  • Spirit of Freedom -> Sight of the Soul -> Pearl of Chi
  • |
  • Inward Host -> Thief of Souls -> Draught Of Darkness
  • | ……………-> The Inner Forge
  • |
  • Imperishable Union -> The Furies Within
  • |
  • Passing Through the Dark Sea

Charm Effects:

  • Transmigration Of Souls (Essence 2, Martial Arts or Occult 2): You may transfer your soul into another body, normally ejecting the soul of the old owner. Fairly easy with animals and the very young, quite difficult with adults.
  • Spirit Binds The Flesh (Essence 2, Martial Arts or Occult 3): You gain extra health levels based on the number of extra lower souls you have. At one you get a -4. At two you get a -2 and a -4. At three you get a -1, a -2, and a -4. At four you get -1, -2, -2, -4, and -4. At five you get -1, -1, -2, -2, -2, -4, and -4.
  • Spirit of Freedom (Essence 2, Martial Arts or Occult 3): You no longer require a physical body. Being killed simply releases you as a free spirit – and you may use Transmigration Of Souls to claim another body. You may also opt to use Transmigration Of Souls to simply engage in “Astral Projection” or to interact normally with immaterial entities.
  • Sight Of The Soul (Essence 2, Martial Arts or Occult 4): You now see as much with the eyes of the spirit as with those of the flesh. You can see spirits, essence constructs, spells, and similar things.
  • Pearl of Chi (Essence 2, Martial Arts or Occult 5): You may add (Essence) dice to any thaumaturgy check you make, may spend three motes in place of a point of will to work thaumaturgy, and may spend motes both to reduce the resource costs and time requirements of thaumaturgy.
  • The Inward Host (Essence 3, Martial Arts or Occult 3): When you take a new body with Transmigration Of Souls you may retain the original owners lower soul until you leave it. This makes it easy to adapt to using an animals body; the instincts come with it – and also allows the animal to survive the experience. On the other hand, with a sapient creature’s body… their intimacies and motivation come with it.
  • Thief of Souls (Essence 3, Martial Arts or Occult 4): You may bind a lower soul from a creature that has just died in your presence into your body, taking on their instincts and motivations to add to your own (the possible origin of some animal-themed martial arts). The soul will remain bonded to you until Calibration, when it must be replaced – although this will also reactivate any
    other abilities that were no longer usable due to an insufficient number of  ower souls.
  • Draught Of Darkness (Essence 3, Martial Arts or Occult 5): You may inhale a creatures dying breath, and take it’s lower soul for your own – also taking on it’s instincts and motivations and healing anything that happens to be wrong with you. The soul will remain bonded with you until the new moon rises, when it will go free and must be replaced – although this will also reactivate
    any other abilities that were no longer usable due to an insufficient number of lower souls.
  •  The Inner Forge (Essence 3, Martial Arts or Occult 4): Your extra lower souls begin to act as artifacts, although there is no repair rating or attunement cost and they cannot be unattuned. The user may design his or her own artifacts or use ones from the books – although these have no physical existence; they’re simply innate powers. When the user increases his or her number of lower souls, he or she may add new “artifacts” or upgrade old ones – but old abilities may not be simply discarded. Choose carefully!
Extra Lower Souls  1  2  3  4  5
Equivalent Artifacts  1x*  3x*  3x*

1x**

 3x*

2x**

 3x*

2x**

1x***

  • Imperishable Union (Essence 4, Martial Arts or Occult 4): Even passing through Lethe will not break your bond with your personal lower soul(s) – and will add another, up to the limit of five lower souls acquired over five rebirths. Sadly, even Thief Of Souls and Draught Of Darkness will not allow this limit to be exceeded – although Draught Of Darkness will still provide it’s healing benefits when used. On the other hand, the basic benefits (and penalties) of your lower souls – your enlightened essence, will score, essence score, mote pool bonus, and the side effects – will remain with your soul until it’s destruction.
  • The Furies Within (Essence 4, Martial Arts or Occult 3): As a committee, you are difficult to sway. You may add your number of lower souls to the difficulty of using mental influence against you and multiply the effects of any will you spend to resist it by the number of lower souls you possess.
  • Passing Through the Dark Sea (Essence 4, Martial Arts or Occult 5): You may “back up” your memories and personalty on your lower souls, where Lethe and all other current memory-altering or wiping powers were never designed to reach, From there they will gradually be restored after the user is reincarnated or if they are somehow modified in some other fashion. Your abilities, charms, occult lore, and – in fact – pretty much everything except your physical possessions, physical attributes, and physically-based merits, will now survive “death” (which doesn’t really happen to you) and rebirth.

Perhaps sadly, nothing here really gives the Reborn character much access to any special charm list; they can gain Terrestrial Circle Sorcery and Terrestrial Martial Arts as normal for an enlightened mortal, and may accumulate a great may spells, forms, and skills and get their essence up to five – but there are rather strict limits there.

In the game the Reborn can be quite effective allies, aides, and tutors to the Exalted, and can be incredibly skilled and powerful for mortals – although Exalts using training charms can build up a mortal in a similar fashion far, FAR, more quickly. On the other hand, they can’t work together more than briefly – and, without access to general charms, will never be able to truly rival the Exalted.

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9 Responses

  1. When were these “Reborn” mentioned? It doesn’t seem very prevalent where. Also, the whole dodging death thing, along with souls-as-artifacts, seems pretty Adenic to me.

    • Oh, they got mentioned back here – https://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/the-chronicles-of-heavenly-artifice-lxvii-science-and-sorcery/ – as one of the possibilities that occurred to Dr Aguerro. Since the question was asked (offline), they get explained…

      They’re a pretty minor thing actually; they’re mostly just there to allow for the occasional non-sidereal (if fairly limited) “Ancient Master”, for another intermediate type, as a possible approach for people interested in exaltation research to examine, and as a way to preserve obscure styles and lore. Mortals with enlightened essence are rare enough anyway, and this style was never common.

      Still, somewhere out there, there may be a few mortals who – by dint of their own studies and labors – have endured across thirty thousand years and more to witness the sweep of history, the passing of ages, and the reshaping of the universe.

      It’s not Adenic though – although there are some similarities and it’s probably compatible.

  2. […] Twilight Voyages and the Reborn: How death works in Exalted – and a Terrestrial Martial Art designed to defeat it. […]

  3. […] Twilight Voyages and the Reborn: How death works in Exalted – and a Terrestrial Martial Art designed to defeat it. […]

  4. […] Twilight Voyages and the Reborn: How death works in Exalted – and a Terrestrial Martial Art designed to defeat it. […]

  5. I have a few questions involving Twilight Voyages higher level techniques. As of right now I’m running a Mortal Hero game in which a scroll of the techniques was found and one of the players wants her character to learn from it. After a moment of reviewing the techniques within her abilities I personally noted some things that I’d like a better understanding of. Just in case, as I don’t wish to be house-ruling when you can give a ruling flat out.
    Can the Inner Forge produce a suit of Gunzosha Commando Armor as it’s three dot artifact, or even more worryingly the Scout or Common class Warstriders?
    Can the Inner Forge produce stacking effects of weapons, as if the user were wearing three pairs of Smashfists for it’s one dot artifact?
    After death does the mortal who has Passed through the Dark Sea reroll his character as if making him anew, or should I just give her some build points to rebuild the physical characteristics once more, like something along the lines of the experienced merit?

    • Well, this was a quick set of notes in answer to a question, hence the general lack of mechanical details. Still, Twilight Voyages is a fairly powerful way for a mortal to go transhuman (although there are lots of other ways*) – and it requires a fairly massive investment in very expensive (going by the XP cost for mortals) charms. Rather more troublingly, it turns you into an utterly unnatural magical being. You can pretty much forget normal social interactions and will develop all kinds of weird motivations.

      *If you want to be REALLY cheap all all you need is access to (now ownership of) three manses – a Mutation Manse (used first), a Bazaar of the Bizarre, and a Winding Way Manse. You can get THAT from a Mentor, Patron, or just a few dots in Manse (“I know where it is and have been allowed to attune to the place, but I don’t own it” is a LOT cheaper than “I own it, control it, and possess it’s hearthstone”).

      Getting additional Lower Souls is problematic too; you can get one from a new body with The Inward Host, one from Thief of Souls (that’s why it’s “A lower soul…”, “THE soul”, and “IT must be replaced), and one from Draught of Darkness (which is similarly singular, although you can take a victims dying energies even if you can’t keep it’s lower soul). To get to a fourth soul you need to pass through Lethe – which means that you need Passing Through The Dark Sea and have to put up with being out of play for years of game time while you die, get reincarnated, and gradually regain your memories.

      To get a fifth soul you’ll need to go through Lethe again and repeat the process.

      That, of course, makes that 3-dot inherent artifact the capstone of a twenty-plus year development process which includes buying a stack of charms at mortal prices, going through Lethe, and doing a fair chunk of growing up again while your memories return, twice – and there’s no guarantee of making it through childhood on any given try, especially since “unnatural” infants can suffer a wide variety of nasty fates long before their powers start coming back. If someone wants Gunzosha Commando Armor after all that… well, there might be a reduction in their sense of touch (and a rather weird childhood), but I’d let them have it.

      As far as taking a Warstrider goes… one of the major problems with The Inner Forge is that you can’t change your choice later and the only way to turn it off is to reduce your number of lower souls – which will eventually become impossible. Worse, you get the full package, including the obvious drawbacks.

      A warstrider is possible – but is, to be blunt, a really, REALLY, bad choice. You get the full package. That means becoming 18+ feet tall, having continuous problems with Fatigue, taking that mobility penalty, taking a perception penalty, being flatly unable to manage fine manipulation or use normal items, accidentally smashing buildings, taking a penalty when attacking normal-sized opponents, having to stick a level three Hearthstone in yourself just to be able to move, and making stealth almost impossible.

      Sure, you pick up some excellent armor, a good dose of Hardness, a very high strength, and boosted movement – but you cannot even feed yourself. Unless you go and live with the Raksha you will never have sex, get into a normal building, sleep in a bed, or have any kind of life again after it goes permanent. You won’t even be able to dress yourself. If someone is silly enough to want to do that to themselves… I’d be inclined to let them.

      Or maybe not. It’s too depressing to think about what their next rebirth will be like. Does the soul arrive before birth, causing the mother to explode gruesomely as the child-to-be abruptly becomes eighteen feet tall? Does it happen afterwards, crushing those attending the birth? What happens to the giant, possibly premature, paralyzed (unless someone inserts a Hearthstone) baby now?

      I think I’ll say “Nothing Good” and close THAT topic.

      Inner Forge “Artifacts” stack exactly the same way that conventional ones do – which generally says that they don’t. Personally I tend to say that dissimilar stuff stacks, and similar items do not – so weapons don’t stack, but an intelligence booster and an occult booster would both add to appropriate rolls.

      A character who has Passed Through the Dark Sea is born normally, somewhere at random. They get an infant physical body and amnesia. Over the next ten+ years their memories, abilities, and so on will all return. Basically… they get a reshuffle on their physical abilities and any physically-based merits, and possibly some social changes. If they want to trade the values around, I’d simply keep the same total and let them pick new stuff. Given that doing this puts them out of play for at least a decade, even if they get reincarnated right away (and there’s no guarantee of that), and means that they will likely never encounter the other player characters again, it doesn’t make a lot of difference.

      • Thanks for all that. It really helped clarify my big questions. Do you think that they could have a companion, say a Solar, develop a toggle type Charm that would allow them to control their artifacts. I personally was going to go the ‘commit motes to it and it’ll be active’ kind of thought but yours punishes powergamers more for stupid decisions.

      • Well, when it comes to Solar’s helping out almost anything is possible.

        I’d be inclined towards a specialty control/booster artifact myself – developing a charm to keep a companions powers under control seems a bit over-specific somehow – but that’s just me and my style is hardly typical. After all, out local game hit session 118 before Charles was revealed as an Exalt and I really don’t think that’s normal for Exalted.

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