Exalted is a role-playing game published by White Wolf Publishing. The game is classified as high fantasy, but may be more accurately described as "mythic fantasy," as the original developer specifically avoided drawing on J. R. R. Tolkien for inspiration. A second edition of the core rule book has been published, and new supplements for this edition are being released. First Edition is no longer in development, but was originally created by Robert Hatch, Justin Achilli and Stephan Wieck. The original core rulebook was published in July of 2001.
The basic premise of the game is that the player characters are chosen by a higher being (such as the Unconquered Sun, Luna, the Deathlords, Autochthon Yozis, the Five Maidens, or the Five Elemental Dragons) and imbued with the powers of a demigod (thus, "exalted," or "raised high"). Other possible player character-types include God-Blooded, Fair Folk, Mountain Folk, Dragon Kings, and even Heroic Mortals. The main game is based around the Solar Exalted, with the Core Rulebook covering the Solars and their abilities and skills.
According to the core sourcebooks and many of the supplementary materials, in the history of the Exalted setting, during the time before anything, there were the Primordials who were titanic, unfathomable beings similar to the Primordial Deities of Greek mythology or the Great Old Ones of H.P. Lovecraft's works, even going so far as to use similar epithets. In this game setting's history, the Primordials took the unshaped chaos that was later to be called the Wyld, which they formed into Creation – a flat, elementally based world. The elements of the world of Creation are similar to the five elements of Chinese and Japanese philosophy. These primordial beings created all life, and then created the gods, who are similar both to the Titans of Greek mythology and the gods of various mythological pantheons. Chief among the gods of the Exalted setting were the Celestial Incarnae, who were charged with ruling Creation while the Primordials indulged in the mysterious Games of Divinity. These Celestial Incarnae form the bulk of deities that "exalt" beings.
In the Exalted setting's history, peace lasted for millennia, but in time, the gods grew jealous of the Primordials. They wanted the power that they had been denied for so long by their creators, but because of powerful oaths they had been forced to swear upon being created, they could do nothing to fight the Primordials directly. For this reason, they created the Exalted. After a centuries-long war, the Exalted finally became victorious over the Primordials, either slaying them or imprisoning them into a prison forged from the body of their own general, known as Malfeas. The slain Primordials became known as the Neverborn, and those imprisoned on oaths sworn on their own names are called the Yozis. With this victory, the Gods ascended to a heavenly city, known as Yu-Shan, to oversee Creation. As a reward for their fight against the Primordials, the Exalted were given rulership over Creation. The Solars gained supreme power, with Lunars being their lieutenants and mates, the Sidereals being their advisers, and the Dragon-Blooded being their shock troops and infantry.
Common to all of White-Wolf's games, the primary character archetype, the Exalted, suffer from a character flaw. In this case, this flaw is represented by a "Great Curse", placed upon them by the fallen Primordials. This Great Curse manifests itself in a variety of ways and causes the "heroes" of the setting to be flawed and thusly more realistic. In game terminology, the Solars grew decadent and corrupt in their great power, driven slowly mad with power and rage. After centuries of plotting and waiting, the Solars were slaughtered to a man in a massive insurrection by the Dragon-blooded and Sidereals known as the Usurpation.
The exalted "essences" or "shards" (which are different from the magical energy in the game, also known as Essence) of each hero who passes from life inhabits itself in a new mortal, and thusly, most Exalts are re-born. The exception to this rule lies in the Terrestrial Exalted, also known as the Dragon-Blooded, who are able to pass their Exaltation down to their children. In the game setting, the majority of the essences of the Solar Exalted were locked away in what was called the Jade Prison. During this time, the Terrestrial Exalted became the rulers of the world, ruling in a system not unlike the Shogunate of classical and feudal japan and after plague and war with faerie-creatures known as the Fair Folk (who are sometimes similar in nature and type to the faeries of mythology, but often more sinister) a strong leader emerged who forged an Empire to rule over Creation known as the Scarlet Empire – the leader known as the Scarlet Empress. It is after this time that the setting takes place. The Scarlet Empress has disappeared five years prior to the "present day" of the Exalted setting and the Scarlet Empire is on the brink of tearing itself apart. The Solar essences have escaped their imprisonment and new Solar Exalted are emerging into Creation, their numbers growing. Now it is a race to see if the newly-risen Solar Exalted will survive their enemies long enough to make their mark upon the world, for good or for ill.
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. The Blessed Isle is located in the center of Creation. The Realm rules the Blessed Isle and its surrounding islands directly. The frigid North is divided by the White Sea, notable independent nations include the Haslanti League and the city-states of Gethamane and Whitewall, the North is also home to the nomadic icewalker tribes. The verdant, heavily forested East is the most densely populated region of Creation other than the Blessed Isle, notable independent nations include the Republic of Chaya, the Republic of Halta and the Linowan. The Scavenger Lands, formally named the Confederation of Rivers, is an organization of allied nations within the East, members include the city-states of Great Forks, Greyfalls (which is also a satrapy of the Realm), Lookshy, Sijan and Nexus, as well as Calin, the Marukan Alliance and the Hundred Kingdoms. The South is an arid region, satrapies and Realm allies include the Principalities of An-Teng, Harborhead, the Varang Confederacy and the city-states of Chiaroscuro, the Lap and Paragon, independent city-states include Gem. The West consists largely of the Great Western Ocean, independent nations include the Coral, Skullstone and Wavecrest Archipelagos, Bluehaven, Luthe, the Denzik city-ship and the empire of the pelagials, the only Realm satrapies are the Wavecrest Archipelago and the Neck, known to locals as Okeanos. Creation has five Elemental Poles, the five powerful, elementally charged hubs of Creation's dragon line network, the Elemental Pole of Earth, the least hazardous of the five, is located at the top of the Imperial Mountain in the center of the Blessed Isle, the Elemental Poles of Air, Wood, Fire and Water are located at the far northern, eastern, southern and western edges of Creation respectively. Outside of Creation is the Wyld, with the overlapping border regions divided into the relatively stable Bordermarches, the somewhat stable Middlemarches and the unstable Deep Wyld, the three of which are collectively referred to as Rakshastan by the Fair Folk, beyond the Deep Wild lies pure Chaos, the pure, unstable Wyld. 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.
Types of Exalts
As a large part of the setting, there are different types of Exaltation, which largely determine both background and point of view for the various protagonists and antagonists of the game. Each different type of Exalt will often have certain predispositions toward or against other Exalt types, and can be viewed differently by the various mortals of Creation, either as monsters or demigods. The Exalted of Creation can be divided into two categories: Terrestrial Exalted and Celestial Exalted. Celestial Exalted are significantly more powerful than Terrestrial Exalted, and can live for millennia, however their numbers are limited by a fixed number of Exaltations. Terrestrial Exalted, while less powerful, have the potential to pass on their Exaltations to their children, much like one would pass on other genetic features. The Abyssal and Alchemical Exalted technically fall outside of the two categories, as do the Green Sun Princes, however their power level is comparable to that of Celestial Exalted. A brief synopsis of each type is given here to demonstrate tone and motivation within the game of Exalted, organized by relative power levels within the game.
- Solar Exalted: also called Lawgivers or Solars, are the default protagonists of Exalted and the champions of the most powerful of the gods, a being known as the Unconquered Sun. There are five castes (similar in nature to the Portuguese definition of "caste") of Solar Exalted. The five castes and their roles can be succinctly defined as: Dawn (the warriors and generals), Zenith (the priest-kings of the Unconquered Sun), Twilight (the scholars and the sorcerers), Night (the spies and assassins) and Eclipse (the ambassadors, diplomats and negotiators). In the era that the game is set, known as the Second Age of Man, the Solar Exalted are returning to the world in numbers for the first time in thousands of years, and their actions and choices have the potential to shape the fate of nations due to the nature and strength of their magical powers. Within the game, the Solar Exalted are the most powerful of the Exalted and during the era known as the First Age of Man, they were the rulers of the world. Within the history of the Exalted setting, their achievements were a beacon to humanity, and their power flows from the sun. The Terrestrial Exalted who served them, also known as the Dragon-Blooded, murdered the Solars at the fall of the First Age. However, it was not possible to destroy their essences, so most were captured with the assistance of the Sidereal Exalted and were imprisoned. However, those that were not imprisoned continued to reincarnate again and again through the ages. Each time a Solar re-emerged into the world by reincarnating in a mortal, they were hunted down and killed by Terrestrial Exalted, who used their greater numbers to overcome the newly-Exalted person in a crusade known as the Wyld Hunt. Considered to be Anathema to the rest of the world, the Solars are regarded as monstrous demons and are feared by anyone with the knowledge of who and what they are. This is due to long-standing and widespread propaganda against Solar Exalted by the Terrestrial and Sidereal Exalted. Throughout various sourcebooks for Exalted, the authors introduce information that points out that Solars lack the ability to specialize in the shapeshifting magic of the Lunars, the raw aggressive force of the Abyssals, the elemental manipulation of the Terrestrial Exalted, or the Fate-manipulation of the Sidereals, their raw prowess in most skills easily exceeds any of the others, and the mightiest of sorceries are their purview alone. Their two greatest advantages are their large Essence pools (Essence stored within themselves) that give them more raw power to work with and their ability to use the highest of all forms of sorcery, that of the Solar Circle – likely named due to the Solars alone being able to access that circle of sorcery.
- Abyssal Exalted: also called Deathknights and Abyssals, are fictional characters in the Exalted universe that are presented as twisted souls that are loyal servants of the Deathlords (powerful spirits of long-dead Exalts), who in turn serve the Neverborn, the dead husks of what were once the ancient Primordials that were slain by the Exalted during the great war between the Primordials and the gods. In the present context of Exalted, the Neverborn sow their revenge from beyond the grave through their Deathlord servants. The source materials present the Deathlords as corrupted remnants of a fallen First Age Solar and are easily among the most powerful beings in the Underworld of Exalted. The Exalted source materials describe the Deathlords as having varied goals, but most are presented with the goal not to conquer or corrupt Creation but rather to wipe it and everything else out of existence, although conquering and corrupting Creation are listed among their tactics. This information is primarily presented in the first-edition sourcebook "Exalted: The Abyssals". The named agents of the Deathlords in the world of the living are the Abyssal Exalted, also known as Deathknights; these antagonists are dark reflections of the Solar Exalted and are presented as being their equal in power. Deathknights are described to find themselves bound to their dark fate; holding onto the trappings of life inevitably spells disaster for those who rebel. In the fictional history of Exalted, within the last five years on the historical time-line of the game, they and their Deathlord masters have begun to corrupt Creation with the power of the Underworld and they field vast undead armies, bolstered by ancient knowledge and powerful necromancy. Several sourcebooks present the Abyssals and the Deathlords as having a tentative foothold in Creation, likely representing its gravest threat. In game-mechanic terms, Abyssals cannot draw Essence from Creation as other Exalts do and can only replenish their Essence in the Underworld or with powerful artifacts. However, the game presents the easiest way for an Abyssal to restore their Essence away from the Underworld by feeding on the living. Willing Solar Exalted can be converted to Abyssal Exalted with a powerful Void Circle Necromancy spell and willing Abyssals can be converted into Solars with a powerful Solar Circle Sorcery spell, although the latter spell does not yet canonically exist (it is presented as a theoretical spell which could be researched and developed) and diminishes the transformed Exalt's power.
- Lunar Exalted: These Exalts are alternatively called the Chosen of Luna and the Stewards and are presented as the most chaotic and savage of the Exalted. Whenever they are mentioned in any of the sourcebooks, they are often referred to as cunning shapeshifters, skilled fighters and capable generals. Within the game's history, they were very commonly bonded in wedlock with the First Age Solars; those that were not killed along with their Solar mates fled to the edges of Creation. At the borders of the order of Creation and in the chaotic energies of the Wyld, their natures were changed over a great many years, which is described in great detail in both the first-edition book "Exalted: The Lunars" and the second-edition book "The Manual of Exalted Power: Lunars". The authors of these books describe the Lunars as beings who often shun civilization; some of them lead and sometimes breed or guide anthropomorphic barbarian tribes. Other Lunar Exalted are described as having gone into deep seclusion in their territories, and still others let their shapechanging animalistic instincts overtake them until their humanity was hardly recognizable. This last group of Lunars are known as "chimera", which are not dissimilar to the Chimera of Greek mythology or Chimera in genetics. The authors describe such chimera as having been changed by the chaotic energies of the Wyld, becoming monsters with no unifying form, or sometimes forms that constantly change. Each chimera is a unique creature – no two chimera are the same. With the return of the Solar Exalted, the uncertainty of the Scarlet Dynasty (the empirical rule) of the Dragon-Blooded, the encroaching influence of the Wyld and its Fair Folk manifestations, and the new threat of the Deathlords in the game's time-line, the Lunar Exalted are presented as possibly returning to a Creation that has changed as much as they have – which is entirely at the discretion of the Storyteller (see Storytelling System for more details on Storytellers). The authors consistently describe Lunars as following a tribal hierarchy and ritually tattooing each other to protect themselves from the warping effects of the Wyld. This further serves to mark them as different from the rest of humanity, as the tattoos are often visible over much of the Lunar's body. In addition to their self-inflicted distinguishing marks, each Lunar has a "Tell" that manifests as an animal-like characteristic that is visible to some degree or another in their human forms, further setting them apart from mortals. In second-edition materials, they are presented less as barbaric warriors and much closer to their original First Age description. Within the game, one of their most notable feats is the Thousand Streams River Project, a complicated system of social engineering designed to create self-sufficient human societies that do not require Exalted leadership to function. Such social engineering is presented within the game to give players who wish to play Lunar Exalts other optional goals to work toward, or as antagonists, a plot hook for Storytellers to include within their own games.
- Sidereal Exalted: these Celestial Exalted, also described as Chosen of the Five Maidens and the Viziers, are the least numerous of all the Exalted types, yet are described as major players in the fate of Creation. Sidereals, in addition to their unparalleled mastery of martial arts according to the authors, evidenced by their access to the highest forms of martial-arts magical abilities (known as Charms, which are usually capitalized in the source materials to distinguish the magical Charms from other uses of the word "charm"), excel at foreseeing and manipulating fate and were presented as the viziers, prophets and cunning advisers of the First Age. Within the Exalted universe, they are often presented as celestial bureaucrats who often work in the Celestial City of Yu-Shan, the home of the gods, ensuring that Creation follows the path that they choose to guide it along, as well as acting in Creation (the "real world" of Exalted). In the fictional history of Exalted, toward the end of the First Age, a prophecy came to them that seemed to offer two options: either destroy the Solar Exalted or watch Creation be destroyed instead. The authors describe Sidereals as being arrogant and prideful, and in their pride, possibly under the effects of the Great Curse laid upon them by the Yozi, they blindly followed their predictions without taking the time to verify them, orchestrating the end of the First Age and of the rule of the Solar Exalted. The overthrowing of the Solar Exalted is known as the Great Usurpation. According to the authors of the Exalted setting, it was with their behind-the-scenes guidance that the Dragon-Blooded were able to completely wipe out the Solar Exalted and effectively direct the Wyld Hunt to the predicted Exaltation of new Solars. Sidereals are described as preferring to work behind-the-scenes, and almost all Sidereals work for the Bureau of Fate in Yu-Shan (Heaven) directing events in the mortal world from there. The authors indicate that because of the effect of the great curse on them, Sidereals now slip from the minds of those who meet them, mortal and Exalt alike, which can be beneficial to Sidereal characters or harmful, depending on their intended goals as player characters and non-player characters. Some author-introduced events prior to the "present" setting of Exalted, such as a devastating plague known as the Great Contagion which eluded their predictions, have jarred their faith in their precognitive abilities, and the loss of the Scarlet Empress, their secret ally at the top of the Scarlet Dynasty, has marginalized their influence. With the emergence of the Deathlords (who, as the authors describe them, are inscrutable to their power of prediction), the return of the Solars, and a growing rift within their ranks (taking the form of the Bronze and Gold Factions with oppositional philosophies regarding the guidance of the mortal realm), the Sidereal Exalted are, according to the authors, uncertain of their future. As a portion of Exalted's back-story, the Bronze Faction of the Sidereal Exalted supported and orchestrated the purge of the Solar Exalted from Creation while the Gold Faction worked to support the Solars and lost much in the way of power and influence at the end of the First Age, but are now gathering their power and directing it into an organization known as the Cult of the Illuminated.
- Terrestrial Exalted: are also known as the Dragon-Blooded, and as the Chosen of the Elemental Dragons. In the back-story of Exalted, they were the elite infantry and servants to the rest of the Exalted in the First Age. The authors describe them as less powerful than other types of Exalted, but most of their strength lies in their inheritance – rather than being chosen by a god, the Dragon-Blooded have the potential to pass their Exaltation on to their children, although some Dragon-Blooded Exalt into families that have no history of any Dragon-Blooded in their genealogy. Within the fictional world of Exalted, these Dragon-Blooded are commonly referred to as "Lost Eggs". The Dragon-Blooded are not limited by a set amount of "Exalted essences" like Celestial Exalted. However, according to the authors, First Age accounts put their numbers at 10,000. Due to their overwhelming numbers in comparison with the Celestial Exalted (Terrestrial Exalted numbering in the tens of thousands as compared to the hundreds of Celestial Exalted); they were able to usurp the power of the Solar Exalted at the height of their power with the help and guidance of the Sidereal Exalted, thus ending the First Age. The majority of the Dragon-Blooded in Creation make up the ruling class of the Realm, currently the most powerful empire in Creation, as described by the authors, which they contrast to the Old Realm, which was ruled over by the Solars and being far more advanced and successful than the current Realm ruled over by the Dragon-Blooded. Within the game, the state-sanctioned faith known as the Immaculate Order, paints the Solar and Lunar Exalted as dangerous Anathema who will bring ruin to the world if allowed to exist, thusly encompassing the propaganda against Celestial Exalts. Because of this, the Realm organizes the Wyld Hunt, which actively seeks out newly Exalted Celestial Exalted (Solars and Lunars, although they also hunt Abyssals and God-Blooded) and overwhelms them before they can master their new powers. This practice, which had effectively kept the Solars from rising to power again since the end of the First Age, has faltered recently in the Exalted time-line because of the recent disappearance of the Scarlet Empress – the absolute monarch of the Realm – and the stability and leadership that she was able to bring to the Dragon-Blooded as described in source materials. The power-struggle, as described by authors, by the great Dragon-Blooded houses to fill the resulting power vacuum has destabilized the Scarlet Empire and allowed the Solar Exalted to escape the purges of the Wyld Hunt and rise in Creation once more. Within the context of the game, the greatest advantages of the Dragon-Blooded are the considerable resources granted to them by their noble status and their ability to work cooperatively with each other to create greater effects with their Essence. There are five elemental aspects to the Dragon-Blooded: Air (also known as the Azure Children of Mela), Earth (also known as the Ivory Children of Pasiap), Fire (also known as the Scarlet Offspring of Hesiesh), Water (also known as the Ebon Offspring of Daana'd) and Wood (also known as the Verdant Children of Sextes Jylis). The ruling Dragon-Blooded of the Realm are made up of the eleven Great Houses. Most houses were founded by and named after one of the Scarlet Empress' Exalted offspring, however at least two houses: Nellens and Ledaal, are descended from the Empress' late husbands, and three unspecified houses are descended from adopted children of the Empress. The 11 remaining Great Houses are as follows: Cathak (Fire), Cynis (Wood), Iselsi (Water), Ledaal (Air), Mnemon (Earth), Nellens (no dominant Aspect), Peleps (Water), Ragara (Earth), Sesus (Fire), Tepet (Air) and V'Neef (Wood), of the 13 former Great Houses, only two, Jerah and Manosque, have been named. The prominent Dragon-Blooded families of Lookshy are known as Gentes. There are five major or great Gentes: Amilar (Air), Karal (Fire), Maheka (Earth), Teresu (Water) and Yushoto (Wood), as well as approximately a dozen lesser or minor Gentes.
- Alchemical Exalted: are constructs built in the world of Autochthonia - in essence, android creations made from clay and the Five Magical Materials. The authors introduced Alchemical Exalted in the supplement "Time of Tumult, and they are occasionally referenced in subsequent materials. According to the authors, Alchemicals are infused with the souls of dead Autochthonian heroes and serve Autochthon, the Great Maker, directly. Autochthon himself is one of only two primordials that was not imprisoned or killed in the Primordial War in the fictional history of the game. Within the context of the game, they serve as protectors of the inhabitants of a parallel world made up of the body of Autochthon himself, and enforce the will of the Tripartite, the theocratic government of this world. They divide themselves into castes according to which material was mainly used in their construction, there are five canon castes, one for each of the Five Magical Materials, as well as the optional Adamant caste. According to the authors, Autochthon designed them before the other four original types of Exalted (Solars, Lunars, Sidereals and Terrestrials), they were not constructed until after the Primordials were overthrown and Autochthon retreated from Creation. Instead of wielding Essence directly and using their Charms in a "magical" fashion like other Exalted do, the Alchemicals have Charms "installed" like peripheral parts and fuel these machine implants with Essence from their own bodies. Unlike the Celestial Exalted, there is no hard cap on the number of Alchemicals, the main limiting factor on their numbers is the immense resource investment required for their construction. As Alchemical Exalted raise their Permanent Essence, they increase in size, eventually joining with Autochthon and growing into cities. The Alchemicals are not subject to the Great Curse, as they did not fight in the Primordial War, however in place of a Limit track, they have a Clarity track which measures their distance from humanity, those Alchemicals who suffer from Gremlinism have a Dissonance track in place of a Clarity track, with Dissonance measuring their madness and corruption. The Alchemical Exalted are latecomers to the game; they are the only type of playable characters besides the Dragon Kings that were designed after the core rulebook was released. The developers of the game even wrote a brief tour of the world of Autochthonia on White-Wolf's website. Willing non-Alchemical Exalted can become "Akuma" of Autochthon, gaining the ability to have Alchemical charms installed and gaining a Clarity track.
- Infernal Exalted: currently have less published material covering their nature, back-story and abilities than other Exalts. There are two types of Infernal Exalted, the Akuma and the Green Sun Princes. Akuma are Exalted of another type who have given themselves over to the cause of the Yozis and have been remade according to their masters' desires, they retain access to their native charm set and gain the ability to learn and use Infernal charms. It has been revealed by the authors that the Green Sun Princes are made with the fifty Essences of Solar Exalts which the Yozis (living Primordials) took in payment from the Neverborn (slain Primordials) and corrupted in exchange for teaching the Neverborn to corrupt Solar Essences to create the Abyssals. The only confirmed modern Akuma in print is Lintha Ng Hut Dukantha. Dukantha was a Water-Aspected Dragon-Blood before his change into an Akuma. This detail, and the Investiture of Infernal Glory charm in the Exalted Player's Guide can be used to create Akuma from any Exalt type. An unnamed female Infernal with a Solar Dawn caste mark is depicted in two chapter-opening comics: one in the second edition Storyteller's Companion and one in Compass of Celestial Directions Volume 2: the Wyld, however she has not been mentioned outside of those comics, and it is not clear whether she is a Dawn Caste. A sourcebook covering Infernals is in development as of May 2008.
Other Magical Beings
Along side the various types of Exalts found in Creation, there are also other magical creatures that use the same essence that Exalts use to power their magical effects.
- Behemoths: Behemoths are unique, immortal monsters. There are two broad categories of behemoths: Primordial Behemoths, created by the Primordials, and Wyld Behemoths, created by the Fair Folk. Wyld Behemoths are classified according to power, in ascending order; the three types are fey beasts, daikaiju and Deep Wyld horrors.
- Dragon Kings: like the Fair Folk the Dragon Kings are not Exalted; they are supernatural creatures offered as a player-character type. The Dragon Kings are large lizard-like beings of great power, resembling dinosaurs. According to the authors of Exalted, Dragon Kings are sworn in allegiance to the Unconquered Sun, their creator. According to the fictional history of Exalted, before the time of the Exalted, the Dragon Kings ruled Creation and the mortals who dwelt there, but as the methods of Exaltation were crafted and improved they become obsolete in the gods' eyes. Canonically, the Unconquered Sun used them as powerful servants to his chosen whom they served faithfully, honoring their Exalted brethren. After the First Age ended in war and disease, few survived. Their numbers grow slowly but steadily in the Second Age, though the once great Dragon Kings remain hidden in the farthest corners of Creation. Canonically, their most powerful stronghold would be Rathess, an ancient home filled with a variety of powerful artifacts made by the Dragon Kings in the glory days of the First Age. The developers describe four types of Dragon Kings, each living in a quadrant of Creation; the graceful flying Pterok (North), the nimble and lithe Raptok (East), the powerful and loyal Anklok (South), and the clever amphibious Mosok (West).
- Fair Folk: are not Exalted at all, but they are, in game terms, an alternative player character or non-player character race, so they are included here. Referred to in the first person as Raksha, they are creatures composed of raw Essence, and inhabit the Wyld – the place that exists between the ordered Creation and pure Chaos. Inhuman and beautiful beings born from chaos, they feed on the dreams and aspirations of the inhabitants of Creation in order to give them strength and form in their own intermediate realm. In essence, they are the "kissing cousins" of the Primordials; their territory having been pushed back when the Primordials formed Creation. According to the author descriptions of them, they prey upon the dreams of mortals and do a brisk trade with The Guild (a powerful economic organization in Creation) in slaves. The Raksha are divided into four castes, Diplomats, who favor the Staff Grace and the virtue of Conviction, Entertainers, who favor the Cup Grace and the virtue of Compassion, Warriors, who favor the Sword Grace and the virtue of Valor, and Workers, who favor the Ring Grace and the virtue of Temperance, noble Raksha belong to two of the four castes, favoring the graces and virtues of both. There is also a fifth Grace, the Heart Grace, which is associated with identity and the trait of Willpower. In game terms, Graces (always capitalized to distinguish them from other uses of the word "grace") are differing outlets for the use of Essence and are similar to the suits of tarot. Canonically, the most powerful of the Fair Folk are the Unshaped. Unlike the Raksha, the Unshaped are unable to survive within Creation for extended periods of time, each Unshaped is actually a symbiotic cluster of Fair Folk consisting of a single "guiding intelligence" and one or more "subsidiary intelligences" with no true form.
- God-Blooded: is the term used to refer to any number of offspring of a mortal or animal and a magical being, or the mortal offspring of two magical beings, in which case they take after the more powerful of the two. The resulting offspring bears traces of its mystical parentage. As a collective whole, such children are referred to as "God-Blooded". According to the authors, they stand somewhere between divinity and mortality, less than Exalted, but more than human. Those with awakened Essence can purchase the same types of charms as their supernatural parent, however their power is limited by a low Permanent Essence trait and a small Essence pool. Of those categorized as being God-Blooded, there are several subtypes. God-Blooded are the children of gods and Elemental-Blooded are the children of elementals, while Demon-Blooded are the offspring of demons. Ghost-Blooded are the children of ghosts using powerful Arcanoi (ghost Charms) to help them reproduce with mortals, and Half-Caste are the children of powerful Exalts (although exceedingly rare), Solar, Abyssal, Lunar, Sidereal and Terrestrial Half-Castes are known as Golden Children, Shadewalkers, Moon-Born, Star-Blessed and Dragon-Touched respectively. The Fae-Blooded are the children of a union between the Raksha and mortals. Lastly, the Mountain Folk can also produce God-Blooded offspring, however there is no specific term for them.
- Mountain Folk: also known as the Jadeborn, are a long-lived subterranean race distantly related to the Fair Folk. The Mountain Folk are divided along two lines, Caste and Enlightenment. The vast majority of the Mountain Folk are Unenlightened – limited in intelligence, creativity and supernatural power. A small minority, including the entire Artisan Caste, are Enlightened, with much greater creativity as well as mundane and supernatural potential. The three Jadeborn Castes are the Artisans, Warriors and Workers. Mountain Folk society is ruled by the Artisan Caste, who make up the nobility, with Unenlightened Warriors and Workers making up the commoners and Enlightened Warriors and Workers occupying an intermediate position.
- Spirits: Spirits are divided into four broad categories: gods, elementals, demons and ghosts. With the exception of elementals, spirits are naturally immaterial, generally require charms to materialize in Creation, and will reform when killed unless some supernatural effect prevents them from doing so.
- Demons: The greatest of the demons are the Yozis, exiled, imprisoned and twisted Primordials. For each Yozi, there are at least a dozen Third Circle demons, each of which rivals the most powerful gods and elementals in power and embodies an aspect of the Yozi, and each Third Circle demon has seven Second Circle demons which reflect facets of its' nature. First Circle demons are the descendants of greater demons rather than aspects of them, they are generally divided into various demonic species, with individuality and uniqueness quite rare among them. All demons other than the Yozis can be summoned through sorcery. Autochthon and Gaia, the two remaining free Primordials, have counterparts to third circle demons in the form of Gaia's Five Elemental Dragons and Autochthon's eight Divine Ministers and Core, Autochthon also has a counterpart to Second Circle demons in the form of the Revered Subroutines, however it is not known whether or not the Five Elemental Dragons have a counterpart to Second Circle demons, unlike true demons, these beings cannot be summoned through sorcery.
- Elementals: Elementals maintain Creation, and generally embody one of the five elements: air, earth, fire, water or wood, although there are a few exceptions. Elementals are naturally material, requiring charms to dematerialize, and with a few exceptions, cannot reform when slain. Unlike other spirits, their growth is largely unrestricted. The most powerful elementals are the Lesser and Greater Elemental Dragons. Elementals are generally outranked by gods of similar power. Elementals can be summoned through Terrestrial Circle Sorcery, however, unlike demons, powerful elementals often have designated proxies who can be sent to respond to the summoning in their stead. The elementals of Autochthonia embody one of the machine world's elements: crystal, metal, oil, lightning or steam, and cannot be summoned through sorcery.
- Ghosts: The most common type of ghosts, simply referred to as ghosts, are the hun or higher souls of mortals who have refused to pass into Lethe and reincarnation due to their attachment to their mortal lives. Ghosts are much weaker than Exalted, and they can only respire Essence in the Underworld and Shadowlands. Hungry ghosts generally come into existence due to betrayal, vengeance or a traumatic death, initially, a Hungry Ghost includes both the higher soul and the po, or lower soul, however the hun soon moves on, leaving the hungry ghost largely mindless, unlike other ghosts, hungry ghosts are naturally material in Creation at night. Nephwracks are ghosts who have been corrupted by the Neverborn, unlike uncorrupted ghosts, they are capable of using necromancy. The Deathlords are thirteen ghosts of powerful Solar Exalted who have been empowered by the Neverborn, and although they are not technically exalted, they have access to Abyssal charms. Spectres, also known as plasmics, are bizarre creatures spawned by the nightmares of the Neverborn. Hekatonkhire are the ghosts of demons and Primordial behemoths, as well as the manifested nightmares of the Neverborn. The Neverborn are the ghosts of slain Primordials, they are immensely powerful, however they are difficult to rouse from their slumber, and their power seems largely constrained to the Labyrinth. Only mundane ghosts and Hekatonkhire can be summoned through necromancy, and only mundane ghosts can be summoned through sorcery.
- Gods: Gods represent objects, locations and concepts, but they are separate from them. Gods are broken down (in order to least powerful and influential to most) into least gods, minor gods, gods, major gods and Celestial Incarnae. Examples of least gods could include gods of a single pebble, whereas major gods could include gods of concepts such as wealth or war. Most gods are members of the Celestial Order, which is stratified into two divisions: the Celestial Court, comprised of gods of concepts, and the Terrestrial Bureaucracy, made up of the gods of physical objects and locations. The Celestial Court is ruled by the seven Celestial Incarnae, and is divided into the Bureaus of Destiny, Heaven, Humanity, Nature and Seasons, with the other four bureaus reporting to the Bureau of Heaven. The Terrestrial Bureaucracy is nominally ruled by the Five Elemental Dragons, and is divided into various spirit courts. Technically, all members of the Celestial Court outrank all members of the Terrestrial Bureaucracy, however, in practice, Terrestrial courts are largely independent. Outside of the Celestial Order, there are also the machine spirits of Autochthonia, unemployed gods whose domains have been usurped or destroyed, rogue gods who have abandoned their duties and forbidden gods who have been exiled due to madness, an abhorrent nature or because they sided with the Primordials. Gods can generally only significantly increase their power by getting promoted or expanding their purview. Gods generally cannot be summoned with sorcery, those which can be summoned require specific spells, and generally cannot be compelled.
Essence is the mystical force which the Exalted and gods manipulate to gain their supernatural powers. It is not completely dissimilar from the philosophical terms "Essence
" or "Quintessence
". Within the game, when referring to Essence (as the mystical force) as opposed to essence (as in the essence of a person's character), the term Essence is always capitalized to distinguish the difference.
Five Magical Materials
Five Magical Materials are used to forge artifacts and weapons. Each of the materials is associated with a type of Exalted, as well as one of the castes of Alchemical Exalted, who are partially constructed from that material. These materials are all easily enchanted, and each one resonates with a particular type of Exalted. This resonance makes any item that is both constructed from one of the magical materials and attuned to an Exalt's anima preternaturally deft and sure in that Exalt's hands. It also gives the Exalt access to the powers of any hearthstone mounted on the item. Jade
: is the most common material, and is associated with the most common, least powerful of the Exalted, the Terrestrial Exalted. There are five different colors of jade, each of which corresponds to one of the Elemental Dragons. Blue jade resonates with Air, white with Earth, black with Water, green with Wood, and red with Fire. Jade weapons are unnaturally fast, and jade armor doesn't tire the wearer. Starmetal
: is the rarest of the magical materials, forged from meteors, the husks of godlings cast out of Yu-Shan, the Heavenly City. Like its wielders, the Sidereal Exalted, Starmetal re-weaves fate, causing weapons to strike especially lethal blows and armor to turn aside all but the mightiest attacks. Moonsilver
: is considered by the Lunar Exalted to be a gift from their patron, Luna. It must be harvested by moonlight, using no crafted tools, forged at night and cooled only with water that has never seen the sun. Swords made of Moonsilver are more accurate, bows shoot farther and armor does not impede the wearer's mobility. Like the protean Lunars, Moonsilver can shift into new forms easily. Soulsteel
: is made from human souls and the substance of the Labyrinth of the Underworld. It is jet black, and agonized faces of the souls it contains can be seen moving and screaming in the metal. Unsurprisingly, this material is used almost exclusively by the Abyssal Exalted. Soulsteel weapons inflict heavy damage on living beings and frequently drain small quantities of Essence as well. Orichalcum
: is used primarily by the Solar Exalted. Orichalcum is rarely found in pure deposits; usually, it is created out of gold that has been heated by lava and sunlight reflected from mirrors of occult design. Orichalcum weapons excel at no one thing; instead of adding a large bonus to speed, damage or defense, they add a small bonus to all.
The setting is strongly influenced by Tanith Lee
's Tales from the Flat Earth
, Michael Moorcock
, Lord Dunsany
's Gods of Pegana
and Yoshiaki Kawajiri
's Ninja Scroll
. Other influences include Glen Cook
's Black Company
; Sean Stewart
's Resurrection Man
, The Night Watch
and Wu Cheng'en
's Journey to the West
The game uses ten-sided dice
and a rules system similar to the Storytelling System
to arbitrate the action, and, as with many other RPGs, requires little beyond the rulebooks themselves, dice, pencil, and paper. The ten-sided die storyteller system is one where the storyteller (or game master
) is the person setting up a story and creating the adventure. The players create their characters using a pre-assigned number of points and begin to interact with the story that the storyteller presents them with, much like a "Choose Your Own Adventure
" book, although the possible actions are limited only to the imagination of the players and the discretion of the storyteller. When a challenge presents itself to the characters, they roll a number of dice determined by the statistics of their character with a difficulty assigned by the storyteller. If they gain the required number of successes (7 or higher on any given die, 10's usually counting as double), they succeed in their efforts. If they do not gain the required number of successes, they fail. The storyteller describes the nature of the success or failure and the game and story continue on. Since the stories are player-created (by the storyteller, of course), there is no one way to "win" the game, except to achieve the goals set out in each individual story.
The rules system used in Exalted differs from the standard Storytelling System in several ways. Most notably, the two systems use different attributes and skills. The standard Storytelling system uses the following attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Presence, Manipulation, Composure, Intelligence, Wits, and Resolve. The Exalted system, on the other hand, uses the attributes from the old World of Darkness system. These are Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Charisma, Manipulation, Appearance, Intelligence, Wits and Perception. There are many differences in skills, in line with the difference in setting. For example, while the standard Storytelling system uses the skills Academics, Firearms, and Politics, the Exalted system uses the skills Lore, Archery, and Bureaucracy. For these and other reasons, the two systems are not directly compatible without adaptations. White Wolf's Scion game uses the same attributes, but not the same skills, as Exalted.
The Storytelling System itself has been applied both to tabletop and video gaming systems, and has been a subject of note to gaming enthusiasts such as Chris Crawford, who wrote a book entitled "Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling" which details many elements similar to the Storytelling System in use in Exalted.
Exalted has mechanical and thematic similarities to White Wolf's previous game series, the old World of Darkness
, but exists in its own product line, called the Age of Sorrows.
The game has an excellent sales record, on par with the company's flagship title, Vampire: The Masquerade
, the second edition core rulebook achieving a sales ranking at #23,558 on Amazon.com with a 5-star user review rating based on 9 user reviews as of Friday, February 9th, 2007. Exalted, being White Wolf's second largest franchise, has helped White Wolf Publishing to grow and maintain an average 26% market between 1991 and 2003. There is speculation among fans that to maintain a sense of continuity, the First Edition published material initially suggested the Age of Sorrows as the pre-history of the old World of Darkness
— however, this has not been officially confirmed outside of early promotional materials. It should be noted that White Wolf has continually inserted names and themes familiar to players of their previous World of Darkness line into the material, adding fuel to the fire of the speculation that it is a pre-history. However, the Developer has commented that the connections are tenuous, for players to grasp or let go – with the end of the old World of Darkness and the creation of the new World of Darkness
, these similarities have become even weaker. Moreover, Exalted Second Edition seems to imply that its story is the prehistory of our own
world. As of November 11, 2006, White Wolf Publishing had averaged a 22% market share since 1991, with the Exalted line maintaining second place behind the New World of Darkness line, and RPG.net also confirms White Wolf Publishing as one of the biggest trends in the roleplaying industry since the 1990s, which can partially be attributed to the success of the Exalted line.
In March 2008, White Wolf Publishing, Inc. unveiled a promotion that would allow 2,500 Dungeons & Dragons
players to exchange their copy of their Edition 3.5 Player's Handbook for a copy of the Exalted Second Edition Core Rulebook. The promotion was called "Graduate your Game" and has received mixed reviews from fans of both games. The success of this promotion has yet to be revealed.
1st Edition (2001-2006)
See the list of Exalted sourcebooks
for further information.
2nd Edition (2006 - present)
See the list of Exalted sourcebooks
for further information.