The Age of Sorrows
¤ Exalted Timeline ¤
There are several conflicting accounts of dates and events throughout the various source materials in Second Edition, so this is the timeline we’ll be going with, along with a few relevant historical facts.
-????? : The Primordials clear a patch of the Wyld and from Creation, and the gods to run it, both big and small.
-4448 : The gods, unable to attack their Primordial masters, create the Solars to rise up in their place and overthrow the Primordials.
-800 : The Unconquered Sun gets angry at the Solar Deliberative and turns his face from the Solar Exalted.
-750 Usurpation : The Dragon-Blooded (and Sidereals, though don’t forget they wiped it from everyone’s memories!) overthrow the Solar Deliberative to take control of Creation; the extermination process lasts for decades.
-700 The Shogunate : The Dragon-Blooded spend several centuries trying to unify Creation under their rule. Most First Age technology begins to fail, as the Solars’ and their skills/charms are no longer around to repair and upkeep the marvels.
-5 The Great Contagion : The Deathlords make their move to overtake Creation, releasing the Great Contagion and killing nearly nine-tenths of the population.
0 The Scarlet Empress : The Scarlet Empress mysteriously appears and activates the Realm Defense Grid, a forgotten wonder of the First Age, driving back the invading forces of the Wyld, and forging the royal Dragon-Blooded houses into a more unified Realm.
763 The Scarlet Empress disappears during Calibration.
764 Thorns is conquered by the Mask of Winters, making Creation aware of the presence of the Deathlords.
768 The Jade Prison Opens : The Deathlords and Malfean forces open the Jade Prison, releasing the Solar souls back into creation, capturing half for their own purposes.
771 Present Day : The Solar Exalted are back and strive to
- retake Creation from the Dragon-Blooded, proving themselves worthy of being its masters once more.
- free their lost Solar brothers and sister from the grips of their Abyssal and Infernal lords.
- reforge long-lost relationships with their Lunar mates.
- find the lost tombs and manses of their former incarnations.
- wander around Creation, righting wrongs and turning the tide against the forces of the Realm from the ground up.
The Linguistics Ability serves two functions. First, it provides dice for all dice actions pertaining to written communication, speech writing and poetry, as well as codebreaking and other forms of cryptography. More importantly, each dot taken in Linguistics represents fluency (and literacy) in an additional language.
Old Realm is the language most often spoken by Exalted when communicating among themselves. The language that will be called “Old Realm” in the Second Age is called the same in the First Age because it predates even that period. In the beginning, it was the only language anyone spoke. Even the language of the Dragon Kings evolved long after Creation was formed, as the reptilian creatures desired a unique language that was incomprehensible to their human slaves. Savants believe that Old Realm was woven into the fabric of Creation by the Primordials at the dawn of time itself. In addition to being the preferred tongue of Exalted in polite society, Old Realm remains the language spoken by spirits and demons (as the Primordials presumably encoded it into their very beings). The Fair Folk intuitively understand it as well, either upon entering Creation or when they first interact with beings from Creation in the Wyld. Old Realm also serves as the basis for the linguistic component of spells that require speech as a prerequisite to casting.
As the Solars began their conquest of the Wyld, they created new languages to assist in the functioning of the Order Conferring Trade Pattern. Each of these artificial languages represents a significant modification to Old Realm designed to conceptually reinforce reality in the areas where it is spoken. These languages include:
Earthtongue is the language associated with the Blessed Isle itself. Linguistically, it is the new language that is closest in structure and syntax to Old Realm. As it is spoken primarily by the lower classes of the Blessed Isle, it is also referred to as “Low Realm” by cultural elitists.
Flametongue is the language spoken by the people who dwell in the Threshold regions of the South. It is most notable for having an elaborate nomenclature for navigational terms calculated to assist caravans in finding their way to the next oasis across hundreds of miles of trackless desert.
Forest-tongue is the language spoken by those who dwell in the trees of the Great Eastern Forest. The East is vitally important to the medical profession, as the vast majority of medicinal plants come from that region. Accordingly, a significant portion of medical terminology used across Creation originated in Forest-tongue.
Riverspeak is the language associated with the River Province. Riverspeak has also become the most commonly used trade language in all of Creation, with many Riverspeak trading terms entering into the other languages as loan words.
Skytongue is the language associated with the Threshold areas of the North. Among Skytongue’s curiosities is that the language has over 200 different words for snow and ice, an essential feature for regions where the ground remains snow covered year round.
Seatongue is the language associated with the Great Western Ocean. As with Flametongue, much of its artificial syntax is designed to aid sailors in communicating navigational concepts. Also, Seatongue is perhaps the most “religious” of the directional languages, and many of its most common idioms are interwoven with subtle prayers to local sea deities. Every “hello” or “goodbye” spoken in Seatongue subtly praises the sea and weather gods and helps to make sure that weather patterns in that turbulent region evolve in ways helpful to the Order Conferring Trade Pattern.
In addition to the directional languages, other important languages include:
- Clawspeak: An artificial language created by Lunar savants to make it easier for Stewards to “write” while wearing animal forms.
- Dragontongue: The first artificial language, created centuries ago by the Dragon Kings as a way of establishing social dominance over the humans who served as their slaves at the time. The Dragon Kings themselves call this language “High Holy Speech.”
- Infernal: The tongue spoken in Malfeas, the demon realm. Intuitively known by demons of any level, it is a sacred language known by few outside the confines of the Yozi imprisonment.
- Rocktongue: The language of Autochthon’s strange children, the Jadeborn. It was once intensively studied by early Twilight savants, as the language’s exacting vocabulary contained a number of peerlessly nuanced terms relating to manufacturing, craftsmanship and creativity, and some keystone concepts of early motonic theory were found within. It is now considered a subject unworthy of interest, as all of its secrets were long ago uncovered.
- Pelagial: The unique language spoken by the mysterious pelagials who dwell on the Western sea floor.
Besides those listed here, there are innumerable other tongues spoken in Creation, albeit by small and insular groups of speakers. The strange gray beings that became so skilled in artifice that the Great Maker Autochthon devoured them for their hubris left arcane works in their advanced language. Various remnants from the Primordial War may yet retain their own rare speech, and occasionally, the Wyld produces new breeds with unknown tongues. In remote areas, some of the more paranoid Solars have magically forced a unique language onto the humans who serve them and obliterated their ability to speak any other tongue. Whether they did this to facilitate some arcane magical process or simply to make it impossible for those humans to live anywhere save under the Solars’ protection is not debated openly. Some Solar linguists even speculate that it is possible to develop “programming languages” to aid in the creation of animating intelligences or, more disturbingly, help to reinforce the power of Social-keyword Charms by devising a language that overrides the listener’s will.
The Celestial Bureaucracy: The structure of the divine hierarchy of Creation and Yu-Shan. Compare to the Celestial Order.
The Celestial Bureaus: The Bureaus of Destiny, Heaven, Humanity, Nature and Seasons are the five Celestial Bureaus, and together they manage and oversee all things in Yu-Shan and Creation… or once did. Now they’re largely bereft of the Incarnae’s guidance and rife with corruption and cronyism. Nonetheless, in the eyes of all gods save the Incarnae, the five bureaus are the reason Heaven exists at all, and every legitimate Celestial spirit claims membership within at least one.
The Celestial Order: The structure of the divine hierarchy in Creation and Yu-Shan; also, that hierarchy’s ideal state. Used most often by those who don’t wish to imply the divine hierarchy is now disordered. Compare to the Celestial Bureaucracy.
The Creation-Ruling Mandate: See the Mandate of Heaven.
The Games of Divinity: The game played by the Incarnae within the Jade Pleasure Dome. So unparalleled is the exquisite pleasure and joy derived from playing the Games that a mere glance at one of the playing pieces is sufficient to incinerate a mortal’s body and annihilate his soul. To beings of greater spiritual potency, the Games are merely phenomenally addictive. Contrary to the beliefs of many mortal savants, the Games of Divinity have nothing to do with manipulating events in Creation.
The Mandate of Heaven: The proclamation made by the Unconquered Sun at the end of the Primordial War, which states the rulership of Creation falls to the Exalted. Also called the Creation-Ruling Mandate.
The Terrestrial sphere: The Terrestrial gods’ sphere of responsibility. As Yu-Shan is either part of Creation or not part of Creation depending on who one asks, the Celestial gods often say “the Terrestrial sphere” when they wish to refer specifically to Creation and not Yu-Shan.
Crafting & the Supernatural
The Primordial Autochthon knew the uses of soulsteel. The pattern spiders he built for the Loom of Fate incorporate the metal in their workings. In the Old Realm, however, soulsteel became the last and rarest of the five magical materials to be used. Foolhardy people may extract small veins of soulsteel from the depths of the Mouth of the Void. The power of the Neverborn can also convert souls directly into soulsteel—a danger for any ghost who dares to touch their tombs. Most soulsteel, however, is made by smelting a black ore from the Labyrinth with souls of the dead. The ghosts trapped in the black metal cannot accept Lethe or even surrender to Oblivion. They are trapped in eternal torment and despair.
Late in the Age of Splendor, the Solar Deliberative made having one’s soul forged into soulsteel the punishment for the most heinous of criminals. No criminal could be condemned to become soulsteel unless a special court ruled that he had destroyed others’ lives so completely that their victims either were likely to choose Oblivion after death or had already done so. As time passed, though, and clever artisans found more uses for soulsteel, the sentencing guidelines became more flexible.
- Melee Weapons: Soulsteel melee weapons are forged from human souls alloyed with frigid black stone from the caverns beneath the Underworld. When a soulsteel weapon strikes a target, it drains her warmth to fi ll the endless cold that exists within itself. In the hands of an Abyssal Exalt, a soulsteel melee weapon is +2 Accuracy and drains a number of motes of Essence equal to the wielder’s permanent Essence whenever it strikes a target and inflicts at least one health level of damage.
- Ranged Weapons: Soulsteel missile weapons can sense the life and movement of their targets and seek to cease that struggling to bring about the blessed stillness of death. When used against living targets by Abyssal Exalted, these weapons are +2 Accuracy and +2 Damage. This bonus does not apply to inanimate objects, nor animate but nonliving ones.
- Armor: Soulsteel armor is terrifying to see, forged from moaning souls that seem to swallow attacks. Disturbingly similar in strength to orichalcum, this armor likewise adds two to lethal and bashing soak and adds one to lethal and bashing Hardness.
- Hearthstone Bracers: These items are uncommon, simply because the Deathlords rarely waste time forging
objects of little power for their underlings. Soulsteel bracers are typically decorated with the sort of
imagery common in war-tools in the Underworld—weeping faces, shrieking souls, skulls and the like.
Soulsteel bracers bring the forces of entropy to bear on their target, decreasing her lethal and bashing
soaks by two against the Abyssal’s attacks. This effect cannot reduce a target’s soak below 0.
It is possible, but not easy, for an Exalt to gain these extra bonuses even if she is not of the appropriate type. To do so, the character must commit twice as many motes of Essence as normal to activate the item, and her player must make a (Wits + Lore) roll at difficulty 3. If she succeeds, her character harmonizes the artifact fully with her own anima and gains the additional bonuses as if she were an Exalt of the appropriate type. If the (Wits + Lore) roll fails, the character suffers a health level of unsoakable lethal damage from the harmonic feedback and must drop the item. This feedback also causes any hearthstones in the item to shatter, though they will reform naturally at their manses of origin over the next month. A botch on this roll can cause the damage or destruction of the item itself. If an Exalt of the wrong type is unwilling to commit such a large amount of Essence, he may still minimally attune to the item for the standard mote cost. In this case, the Exalt gains the attunement but none of the benefits of the material’s construction. (Core Books p.382)
Between Exalted, The Books of Sorcery, Vol. I—Wonders of the Lost Age and The Books of Sorcery, Vol. III—Oadenol’s Codex, the rules for artifact creation can be somewhat confusing. What follows are consolidated clarifications and some errata:
Magitech artifacts are defined as complex non-living artifacts with interconnected moving parts and/or Essence manipulation capabilities. The Storyteller remains final arbiter of whether an artifact fits these criteria. Unless they are built with imperishable techniques, the items also require some form of recurring upkeep. Building these wonders uses Craft (Magitech) with standard artifact-creation rules, but this process cannot succeed without a sufficiently advanced facility. See The Books of Sorcery, Vol. I—Wonders of the Lost Age, pages 8–9, and The Books of Sorcery, Vol. III—Oadenol’s Codex, page 28, for information on these categories: master’s workshop (•••) for Repair 1–3 items, flawless workshop (••••) for Repair 4 and an ideal workshop (•••••) for Repair 5–6. Maintaining or repairing magitech uses the rules on pages 6–9 of The Books of Sorcery, Vol. I—Wonders of the Lost Age and uses Craft (Magitech), though it is possible for less learned artisans to substitute a mundane Craft at a higher difficulty.
Simple Artifacts are basic “Essence goes in, magic comes out” devices that seldom have much in the way of moving parts and normally don’t require any kind of recurring upkeep to stay in working order. If an item lacks obvious complexity and doesn’t specify the frequency or consequences of its maintenance needs, the presence of a Repair rating doesn’t automatically make it magitech. (For example, most of the wonders in The Books of Sorcery, Vol. I—Wonders of the Lost Age have Repair ratings even though they aren’t all magitech.) As before, this is the Storyteller’s call. Building and repairing simple artifacts uses the rules in Chapter One of The Books of Sorcery, Vol. III—Oadenol’s Codex and can be done at any kind of workshop using relevant mundane Crafts.
Genesis Artifacts are artificial or artificially modified organisms with complexity and power comparable to non-living artifacts. (See The Books of Sorcery, Vol. I—Wonders of the Lost Age, pages 116–118, for more information.) Such artifacts never have or need Repair ratings, as the capacity to heal is a fairly universal property of life and may be medically assisted. The level of workshop required to build a living being with Craft (Genesis) using standard artifact-creation rules depends on the item’s rating. It is possible, though, to use a facility one category too primitive at a -2 external penalty in lieu of any workshop-related dice bonuses: 1–2 (flawless workshop; ••••) and 3–5 (ideal workshop; •••••). The actual construction process mirrors that of conventional artifacts, right down to the reverse-engineering benefits for scanning or vivisecting a sample organism to copy it.
Not all of the technology woes of the Shogunate were directly tied to the loss of the Celestial Exalted and the sorcery and Charms they wielded. A second tier of unanticipated hardship plagued the new rulers of Creation because of the Dragon-Bloods’ low position in the hierarchy of the Exalted. The Solar Exalted alone were authorized by Heaven to rule Creation. It was to them that the Unconquered Sun had granted the title of Lawgivers, and they alone had the right to command the spirits of Creation as they saw fit.
When the little gods saw what the upstart Terrestrials had done, they threw off their chains and rebelled. The agreements between the spirit courts and the Solar Exalted were rendered null and void by the mass assassination of the Lawgivers. All manner of spirits deserted the objects and systems into which they’d been bound, and they refused to gift the Dragon-Bloods with their favor in any capacity. Heaven saw the DragonBlooded as barely Exalted, hardly above mortals in status or worth. And given the blatancy and sheer hubris of their recent mass regicide, Heaven saw fit to punish the Terrestrials through its absolute lack of support or even acknowledgement.
While many spirits mourned the passing of the Lawgivers who had extended the borders of Creation and brought stability to Creation, other spirits saw the overthrow of the Solars as an opportunity to disregard the Exalted mandate and hoard power in violation of celestial law.
Dragon-Blooded sorcerers held extensive diplomatic talks with spirit envoys, but to no effect. The spirits refused to serve the Terrestrials, and their departure instantly plunged the Shogunate into chaos as the infrastructure that had made life so comfortable under the Lawgivers collapsed. Entire systems ceased to function, hollowed out and left useless by the spirits’ abdication of their former duties. Bad as things were, they could have been worse. Only the behind-thescenes maneuvering of the hidden Bronze Faction Sidereals kept the spirits from turning against the unwitting Dragon-Blooded wholesale.
Only the elementals still served the Terrestrials, and they did only what they were bound to do by sorcery. Those elementals who were serving the Solars out of choice (and there were many of them) fl ed as the other spirits did, and the relatively few Dragon-Blooded sorcerers were able to keep only the most crucial elemental-powered devices running after a flurry of emergency summonings.
This desertion was an insult of unthinkable proportion to the Terrestrial Exalts, and they would not forgive it. To keep spirits in line, members of the Bronze Faction created the Immaculate Philosophy and went to the immense trouble of teaching Immaculate monks Celestial martial arts, something they’d never done before. By giving the infuriated Dragon-Blooded both a reason (the Immaculate Philosophy) and the means (Immaculate martial arts) to injure spirits, the Sidereals established a system to keep spirits in line—or at least to address their most excessive behavior.
The Dragon-Blooded could not claim divine mandate to rule, but they could now get what they wanted through intimidation tactics. “We can hurt you now, “the new approach said, “and if you stay in line, nobody needs to get hurt.”
Ultimately, the strong-arm tactics of the Immaculates did them no favors. On the contrary, they cemented the spirits’ impression that the Terrestrial Exalted were little more than glorified thugs. The Immaculates kept the peace and prevented spirits from wreaking havoc, but it cost them dearly. Any lingering shreds of hope or respect that the spirit courts may have had for the Shogunate died the moment a band of Immaculate monks committed violence on a spirit simply for accepting prayers from mortals.
THE SILENCE OF THE GODS
It was not just the departure of the small gods that undermined Shogunate technology. The Solars had a long history of asking the gods direct questions about how to innovate on their technology. Vanileth, for example, had long coached Celestial Exalts through the construction of increasingly powerful skyships, and there was no one anywhere in Creation who knew more on the subject. The Celestial gods steadfastly refused to talk with the Terrestrials, however. When the gods and elementals alike gave the Dragon-Blooded the cold shoulder, it had severe consequences for all manner of technological research and maintenance.