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Character: Anyone
Level: 6
Class/Kit: Assassin

PostSubject: Background   Wed Jan 25, 2012 5:25 am


The basic premise of the game is that the player characters are chosen by a deity and imbued with the powers of a demigod (thus, "exalted", or "raised high"). There are numerous varieties of Exalted, each chosen by a different deity or group of deities; however, the core game is based around the Solar Exalted, Chosen of the Unconquered Sun, with the Core Rulebook covering the Solars' abilities, powers, and place within the setting. While the core rulebook mentions and discusses the other Exalted to the extent necessary for them to appear as supporting characters in Solar-themed games, additional sourcebooks provide the depth of detail necessary to stage other Exalted as playable characters.

According to the core sourcebooks and the supplementary materials, the history of the setting begins with "Time Before", where there were the Primordials: vast, unfathomably multifarious eternals similar to the Prôtogenoi of Greek mythology or the Outer Gods of H.P. Lovecraft's works, even going so far as to use similar epithets to the latter. The Primordials brought the Unshaped Chaos that was at the time, and formed it into the Creation – a flat world of finite extent, dominated by five elemental forces organised into poles in the furthest reaches of the four cardinal directions, as well as one pole in the centre of the others. The elements: Air (north), Fire (south), Water (west), Wood (east) and Earth (center). The Primordials created all life, and created the gods, numberless immortal spirits resembling the Kami of Shinto, to watch over all that they had made. Foremost amongst the gods were the Celestial Incarnae, or Celestines; seven deities representing the sun, moon, and major planets who were charged with the government of Creation as a whole while the Primordials abdicated to Yu-Shan, an abstract paradisical realm also of their devising, to play the mysterious Games of Divinity. These Celestial Incarnae are the chief deities involved in exalting mortals.

Peace reigned for millennia, but in time, the gods grew to despise the Primordials. The Primordials, particularly The Dragon's Shadow; Adrián, the River of All Torments; Isidoros, the Black Boar That Twists the Skies; and the Empyreal Chaos, the Primordial Tyrant-King, were callous and hazardous rulers, whose all-consuming, incorrigible egos and inability to see their Creation as other than solely a reflection of themselves wrought immense suffering across the world they had made. The breaks from the Games of Divinity that brought them into Creation left nothing but destruction and terror for the mortals and gods who toiled thanklessly to sustain the reality shaped by their makers. The Incarnae thus meant to end Primordial rule and claim the Games of Divinity for their own, but they could not. The Primordial Cecelyne, the Endless Desert, at the behest of The Dragon's Shadow and others, had writ a Great Geas, preventing their divine servitors from raising arms against their makers.

Hearing their seditious whispers, a curious and empathetic Primordial, Autochthon, the Great Maker of Brass and Shadow, the inventor of life and art, sympathised with the plight of the creatures and contrived to assist them. With great knowledge of spiritual metaphysics, Autochthon devised a way to invest human souls with miraculous potency that could not be stripped away by the other Primordials, and took the gods into his confidence. In order to strike at their creators, the Celestial Incarnae selected mortal humans, the lowest of all souled creatures and quite beneath the Primordial's fear, to be their Chosen. The gods Exalted these mortals, giving them divine power reflective of the purview of their respective patron deity. Meanwhile, the many-faced trickster god Luna convinced her Primordial lover, Gaia, the Spirit of Creation, to lend several of her component souls to the effort, Exalting each their own group of humans. Armed with terrible metaphysical weapons by Autochthon, the Exalted thus stood before the elemental pole of earth, in the very centre of the world, and declared war on Heaven. After a cataclysmic struggle in which Creation shook to its foundations, the Exalted finally triumphed over the Primordials, slaying many of their number and the extracting the surrender of all else who had fought against them.

Upon electing themselves rulers of all from Heaven, the Celestines retreated to the city of Yu-Shan to oversee from on high and play in the Games of Divinity, and granted the Exalted the Creation-Ruling Mandate as a boon for their service to the new order. The surrendered Primordials were tortured, subjected to incarnation and soul death, and forced to swear unimpeachable oaths on their true names. Twisted and trapped inside the now-physical body of the former Empyreal Chaos by the Exalted, they were shunted out of Creation, becoming the Hell known as Malfeas, the Demon City and its unfortunate inmates; they are half-remembered only as the Yozis – primitive, ill-understood, and impersonal cosmic deities, and their continued worship is reckoned among the highest of heresies. The slain Primordials became the Neverborn, quiescent monsters without beginning whose impossible ending forever disordered the ordained cycle of life, death, and reincarnation, resulting in the formation of the Underworld: a skyless, shrouded, shadowy effigy of the living Creation in which the souls of the dead linger and cling to their former identities rather than entering Lethe in order to be born anew.

Common to all of White Wolf's games, the primary character archetype, the Exalted, suffer from a systemic character flaw. In this case, this flaw is represented by a "Great Curse", uttered upon the dying breaths of the slain Primordials. This Great Curse manifests itself in a variety of ways and causes the "heroes" of the setting to be fatally flawed and thus more interesting than mere superpowered demigods. In the game's history, the Solars grew decadent and corrupt in their supernatural rule, eventually threatening the existence of the created world itself, and causing the Unconquered Sun to turn his face from Creation in shame and sorrow. After centuries of plotting, the Solars were slaughtered in a massive insurrection known as the Usurpation by the Terrestrial and Sidereal Exalted, whose own corrupt and banal rule has perpetrated its own form of, lesser, evil upon the world.

Each Exalted possesses a "spark" of divinity (sometimes called their "Exaltation") which leaves to exalt a new mortal when the Exalted passes from life. The Terrestrial Exalted (also known as the Dragon-Blooded) are an exception to this, as they do not possess an independent and unique spark. Rather, their Exaltation is passed down through their blood to their descendants. The spark is separate from the magical energy in the game, known as Essence, but it is what allows Exalted to utilize Essence to accomplish miraculous feats. After the Usurpation, the majority of the exaltations of the Solar Exalted were locked away in the Jade Prison, and a periodic event known as the Wyld Hunt was organized by agents of the Sidereals and Terrestrials to drive the Lunar Exalted from the civilised lands of Creation and prevent them from releasing the exaltations of their ancient companions. During the intervening age, the Terrestrial Exalted became the rulers of the world, ruling in a system not unlike the Shogunate of feudal Japan. After the Great Contagion (a plague engineered by the Neverborn to swell the population of the underworld and weaken Creation) and the Balorian Crusade (a war with the Fair Folk, manifestations of the Unshaped Chaos trapped in Creation, similar in some ways to the faeries of mythology) wrought devastation across Creation, a strong leader of the Dragon-Blooded, the Scarlet Empress, emerged and forged the Scarlet Empire. Five years prior to the present of the Exalted setting, the Scarlet Empress disappeared, casting the Scarlet Empire to the brink of civil war. Not coincidentally, the Solar exaltations held in the Jade Prison have been released by agents of the Yozis, and with no recent Wyld Hunts due to the calamities, new Solar Exalted are being born into Creation, their numbers slowly growing. Thus, the backdrop to the setting sees the newly-arisen Solar Exalted (among various other heroes and villains) struggling to survive their enemies in this time of tumult long enough to make their mark upon the fate of Creation, for good or for ill.[1]

The flat world of Creation is the primary setting of Exalted. Creation has two continents, the Blessed Isle and the unnamed super-continent which covers the northern, eastern and southern edges of Creation, populated by many nations and tribes, with the settled regions along the inner coast of this super-continent being known collectively as the threshold. The Blessed Isle is located in the center of Creation. The Realm, a loose term for the disparate remnants of the Scarlet Empire, rule the Blessed Isle and its proximate archipelago directly, and indirectly rules numerous tributary states known as satrapies along the threshold. The frigid North is divided by the White Sea. The heavily forested East is the most densely populated region of Creation other than the Blessed Isle. The Scavenger Lands, formally named the Confederation of Rivers, is an organization of allied nations within the East. The South is a hot, arid region. The West consists largely of the Great Western Ocean and various major and minor island nations. Creation has five Elemental Poles, the five powerful elementally charged hubs of Creation's dragon line network. The Elemental Pole of Earth, the least dangerous of the five, is located at the top of the Imperial Mountain in the centre of the Blessed Isle, and the Elemental Poles of Air, Wood, Fire and Water are located at the far northern, eastern, southern and western edges of Creation respectively. Beyond the Elemental Poles of Creation is the multidimensional, infinite ocean of Pure Chaos from which Creation was forged as an island of stability and comprehensibility. The "shore" in which Creation and the Unshaped Chaos overlap is known as the Wyld, and is roughly divided into the Bordermarches, a region in which Creation becomes increasingly magical and queer; the Middlemarches, in which the world becomes progressively more illogical, paradoxical, and otherwise deranged; and the Deep Wyld, where reality begins to fundamentally disintegrate, subliming into the unfathomable vacuum beyond it - it is a place where ordinary mortals generally lose their sanity if they survive from moment to moment. The cosmology of Exalted also includes the Underworld, the celestial city of Yu-Shan, the demon realm of Malfeas, the machine world of Autochthonia, and Elsewhere.

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