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[Exalted] the Realm is here!

Isator Levie

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Validated User
So, administrative divisions. Number and structure of the prefectures is about the same, though we’ve of course got an extra dominion; I’ve often thought in terms of prefectures being sized in a manner similar to divisions in China or America, where you get less populous western ones being larger, but I take it from this initial description that they’re more about taxable commercial output. I think that the demographics called upon to appoint as prefects is about the same as it ever was, but the idea that they were always appointed by the Deliberative (with a veto for the Empress) is a bit of a shift; apart from being a bit more sensible to me (it seemed at times like a position numerous and spread out enough to be a bit taxing and tedious for the Empress to appoint each) and makes me wonder if there are some overall adjustments to that body. I also think a stronger emphasis is being placed here on the value of prefectural production. While the description of governors supplements a straightforward administrative posts with a few useful hooks, such as the idea of a new prefect coming in to deal with governors loyal to a previous House, and that a Dynastic scheme to extend power over the countryside is to consolidate villages to a large enough status to have loyal governors appointed. The point about forced relocation in particular has me wondering if some of the schemes of the Great Houses to reduce the peasantry to serfdom have been modified.

Okay, so for a while now I’ve not really been able to make sense of descriptions of taxation policies in previous Editions; that whole rigamarole of sending officials around to convert scrip into jade and then ceremonially be granted it… I couldn’t exactly see the point. And I think you even got some places in the books saying that direct taxation was an insignificant and almost perfunctory form of revenue compared to satrapial tribute. For the time being, the idea reads to me as having been simplified and made more direct. It’s interesting to me how prefects are centrally appointed officials, but still function partially as House tax farmers and thus a source of their revenue; it’s another thing that clears up exactly how the Houses work in Realm finances, where before it could be a bit shaky. As always, I appreciate attention being given to how there’s a bit of graft, and I think the attitude towards how there can be a bit of back and forth with citizens concealing assets from tax collectors is new, and I like the notion that there was always a bit of leniency in collecting in full on the understanding that this could be disruptive. Likewise the reference to people more boldly concealing their full worth among the usual increase in misappropriated funds in the absence of the Empress; it’s another thing that lends the commoners a bit more agency.

Right, with the contrast given between new prefects and life-long governors, I was wondering what their term lengths were, so glad to see that provided. I find the description of the politics underlying prefectural appointments to further clarify the position of the Great Houses in territorial distributions of the Blessed Isle. I like how the idea of appointing prefects to areas containing the interests of different Houses captures the spirit of the imperial Chinese policy of keeping officials from becoming too familiar with their purviews, in a system where the priorities would be quite different, and it’s interesting to imagine the tension inherent to a House trying to push for a scion being granted a valuable prefecture so they can get a cut of the taxes, even if doing so might forfeit a bit of other influence in the area as the scion becomes obligated to serve imperial interests more. On the other hand there’s the matter of local patricians actually being ones who have become more deeply rooted in the administrative apparatus, and there are some good ideas for how they can leverage that for advantage over the prefects. The plot hook about numerous prefects’ terms coming to an end soon and working out deals for new appointments is very good, and can read nicely as an effective prelude for Great Houses turning large sections of the Isle into family fiefs (alternatively, somebody trying to abate war might look to negotiate to retain a system of diverse appointments serving a central interest). It does a good job in any case of making it clear how most prefectures do not and cannot function as such already, which also makes the contrast with the homelands of each House more striking in comparison. All of those points come together nicely with the description of Dynasts finding prefectures to be places to vacation to continue the point that their residences are usually more concentrated, even if they might often tour the Isle for recreation or to attend to far-flung business interests. And I like the impression of the Immaculate Order functioning as a kind of parallel administrative institution, ministering to the needs of the people while also passing judgement on the officials, continuing the image of one of their functions being to provide the peasantry with an outlet; it’s an interesting position for an established religion, to occasionally incite uprisings as a matter of course. All of this goes nicely with the illustration, which I take to represent the idea of local administrators serving multiple different interests even while sharing the proverbial table (in any case the costuming and diegetic lighting and shading is nice, and the depiction of each of them in a different colour is striking).

… Unless it’s just supposed to be a somewhat late depiction of Dynastic dining practices, with the contrast between Exalted at the big table and mortals at the minor one? Still looks nice, although the technicoloured people seem to be wearing patrician-style hats.

Now, that sidebar on money is very good. First off, it’s nice to have a clear list of the various expenses that the Great Houses need to grapple with as they face the onset of civil war, as well as their various revenue streams. The main thing that draws me is the attitude being presented; I feel as though in some spots in the past, the Houses were attributed practices that were unsustainable while not being entirely mindful of the fact, coming across as largely an exercise in greed and excess. The impression that I get here is that they’re a bit more considerate of the long term, but need to balance that against the requirements of the near future. It lends a slightly more desperate air, and sets up an environment in which opportunists might find ways to exploit the Exalted masters of the great empire. The line in particular about how peasant taxes are viewed as limited by the prospect of revolt suggests to me that the policy of conning them into debt to the Dynasty where they weren’t simply driven into disenfranchisement has been abandoned altogether; strategizing for conflict against the other Houses probably makes the question of authority over the rural populations a low priority at best. All together, it makes a very strong practical and emotional picture, a firm idea of what the current schemes and needs of the Houses are and the sense that many scions will be struggling with the limits of their assets.

And speaking of, the chapter finishes with a discussion of the Great Houses directly. It’s been fun inferring a bunch of details sure, but I’m glad to be given a few direct words on how they fit into the overall structure (such as a summary of their general assets and contributions, which particularly helps to clear up their relationship with land), particularly when delineated along lines of their particular characters and interests. It’s a small note, but I also think it’s helpful for getting a feel of them to clearly state the basis for their origins as pre-existing family groups consolidated under the authority of upraised children.

Let’s see, if House Cathak is anything to go by, it would appear that the structure for each of these write-ups goes… brief summary of House culture and how that influences practices (as a permutation of info earlier in the book, limiting redundancy with What Fire Has Wrought), general strategic goals and economic needs, the manner in which they influence areas under their authority, and external relations. Looks good to me, effectively distinguishes them and gives a solid basis for playing out their long-term plans, as well as adding to the social diversity of the Blessed Isle. For the specifics of Cathak, I like that idea that they tie their legions to things like grain shipments as a form of propaganda, while it also provides a reminder of the brutality in dealing with unruly satrapies. Their long-time militarism is leant a bit more savvy with the idea that the necessary expenses imposed on their prefectural holdings are offset by cultivating the good reputation of their forces, and I like the way that retiring soldiers bringing some legion values to the general peasantry in the form of sport and competition can constitute a form of influence even without deliberate policy. In a similar vein to patrolling imperial legions playing off of bandits, I think the idea that the traditional Cathak legions having worked against heretical movements is a solid basis for some activity on the Blessed Isle itself (preventing them from feeling idle), and the manner in which various services cater to them adds some nuance to the military presence. It’s also fun to see the financial benefits that their adopting the role of queenmaker has afforded to them.

For Cynis, I think the mission of rounding them out a bit is helped a lot by the contrasts given to how they’re viewed in different quarters; the scandal among the other Houses, the allure presented to patricians (which nicely complements the point of how they’re courted for the sake of Dynastic operations) and the less glamourous image perceived by the commoner majority from their monopolies in the slave trade and large-scale agricultural concerns. But even that is given some contrast with how the Cynis aesthetic values express themselves in their holdings; I like how the priority there is not to present them as predatory, but instead as patrons of public works that can greatly beatify a prefecture, even down to the level of rural villages, as well as providing an environment in which more liberal attitudes can survive by way of their own indifference. It amuses me to consider that when a Cynis commissions some fine statuary or attractive garden to be placed in some minor village, it might be driven not so much out of altruism as it is to give their own travelling a more scenic view, even if the peasantry probably benefit all the same. With all of the previous consideration for Dynastic involvement in criminal enterprise, I’m glad to see that be a direct point of discussion, and a reminder of how one of the House’s primary interests is in gathering and strategically distributing sordid information about their fellows (as well as a means of further enriching themselves by having a hand in the distribution of their narcotics to classes that I suspect are typically forbidden them). All of that luxury is nicely offset by the notion that they’re among the Houses most finding their usual revenue streams disrupted by the current crisis, and I think the matter of how they’re making overtures to the Guild is a strong plot hook for both sides of that exchange.

Ledaal’s Shadow Crusade is being used to give them a very vivid presence in the perceptions of the common populace; their protection from the very real threats of the Fair Folk, subversive spirits and their adherents and the Celestial Exalted being offset a bit by their intrusion and interference. The measures they go to seem to create a potential for them to be among the least popular Houses when encountered up close, as opposed to being admired from a distance, and I would find that to punctuate the difficulties they’ve been given in facing the Time of Tumult. Ah, that point is made even clearer with the idea that they maintain the strongest and harshest distance from even the patricians, and I can imagine some fun scenarios in which many people of the lower classes are making them pay for it a bit at a time when they could do with some more popularity (as well as the occasional scion struggling to try and adopt a friendlier demeanour). One of the most interesting things to me here is how Arjuf, which I’ve often viewed as the Realm’s second financial capital, is being presented as starting to repel merchants how don’t want to be squeezed to fund Ledaal’s numerous concerns and agendas. I actually found that House to be one of the more sympathetic for how pressed it was, so I like getting a much harsher image in seeing it from this angle.

A lot of what is attributed to Ledaal might have once been associated with Mnemon, but I can readily see how their emphasized closeness to the Immaculate Order and presence in architecture and construction gives it a much better (if still somewhat austere) standing among the common populace (even while it reminds us that the matriarch herself ends up not quite being popular). I’m guessing that their interests in beatifying even lower level communities actually is more altruistic than that of Cynis, and I might see compelling scenarios in which some economic policy was undertaken for the sake of being able to pay for such a thing out of pocket; I can imagine that more than one village owes its bath house in particular to Mnemon charity. Also nice to see their diverse spiritual and artistic inclinations contribute to their acclaim. It’s like Cathak in its helpful reminder that satrapies can be harshly treated (albeit the focus is probably different, and I imagine that this House is more widely disliked by foreign gods), and has the clearest avenue for making the point about how imperialist infrastructure developments have a high priority for more easily projecting force and extracting wealth. With the emphasis on the Order’s place in peasant risings, it’s amusing to me to consider how this House might actually end up cultivating some of the strongest environments for protest (if not dissidence), while the idea that the organization is supporting the House through lean times lends itself to the hook of a rise in Mnemon’s authority might be commensurate with a more strictly enforced faith. This House was one of my favourites in the Dragon Blooded book, and I find that compounded in this picture of their compelling austerity coupled with being hard pressed.

A more thoroughly rounded look at the Blessed Isle puts Nellens’ personal and financial closeness to the peasants and patricians into perspective, and its interesting how they’re able to enhance this popularity by way of their more diverse and lucrative assets enabling them to ease off on taxation. It’s a funny thing how peasants in other prefectures ape the prejudices of the Dynasty; I’m imagining that’s not quite as much about being influenced by the views of the powerful as it is taking advantage of the catharsis of being able to direct some disdain at a House that other Houses will not respond harshly to. I like how the spirit of propping the House up is used to make their lack of satrapies something that they turn into a strength, and the idea that they would cultivate influence by using a combination of administrative position and wealth to help pay off tributary shortcomings is very clever. It’s good to make the point that its money is based on less sturdy foundations, lest it come across too well (even if that is supplemented by the point that attacks on its holdings could cause a cascade that might offend the lower classes too deeply for them to keep their heads down). It’s also fun how needing to spend to secure itself in the event of war might well tip it off as they potentially give away their overlooked revenue streams and savings.

Of course there’s going to be a strong emphasis on Peleps’ romantic popular perception, since the Exalted book made that foundational to their House identity. It’s also an interesting thing how their meritocratic attitudes have to twin edges of making prefectural government around them feel more honest at the same time as it becomes harder to get into. Ages ago I imagined Cynis as the House with the strongest showings of foreign goods and fashion, but I’m good with the idea of that being transferred to Peleps as an extrapolation of its naval and maritime interests and giving its reputation as grand adventurers a means of disseminating throughout the Isle’s communities, especially with them being at the forefront of trade to the relatively recently opened West. It all helps to set up the House as the local equivalent to 16th and 17th century adventurers of the Caribbean and the Spanish Main (things that I felt compelled to read more about recently); I also enjoy the understated way that they’re attributed a form of cultural appropriation that is likely to be highly offensive in-character. All of that goes nicely with the ways in which the still extreme expenses of the navy are forcing them to take actions that are drastic when they aren’t outright treason. It all works as a nice set up for the possibility of going off to conquer the West outright, including the possibility that pushing too far could end up with them being all but driven out. The one thing that I would be critical of is a feeling that it could have given a bit more perspective to the actions of Peleps scions as imperial judges, but perhaps that will be helped out later in the book.

Ragara’s quality of having extreme financial power might have been one-note, but I find that it’s effectively varied with points such as them having an interest in maintaining good relations with business partners and being less culturally interfering in satrapies than other Houses. Also how the traditional disdain for such a profession can colour the views even of people used to the dominance of the Exalted, while the existence of groups like the Guild can provide an example that makes even Ragara look attractive and heroic to some. I find the particulars of their ostentatious lifestyle to be reasonably distinct from those of Cynis, with the preference for extravagant meals being particularly reminiscent of the most grotesque excesses of the 19th century British, and it helps to give them more presence and personality. It makes sense how they would cultivate environments of emulating their excess, by which they can further profit, and it’s fun how they would be so strongly opposed by the Order (no doubt ardently, if covertly, encouraged by Mnemon herself). There were questions raised last year about how Ragara’s wealth being so closely tied to debt would survive a major war, and I think those are effectively addressed by the point that they wouldn’t, and thus the House would want to ensure that a civil war was resolved quickly (which it’s probably in a position to influence with the way it’s using its current assets to take control of divested resources and provide or withhold supplies). That and the idea that they’re placing a much stronger emphasis on repayment in hard currency. All of that is offset well with the point that the House is in a more precarious position than might be expected, at the risk of enemies seeking destruction if it pushes too far.

So much of Sesus in What Fire Has Wrought was concerned with activities that were clandestine, so I’ve been wondering a lot how their functions in the light of day might come across. It’s interesting how it goes for an approach of them being wildly unpopular, but with such a combination of military, mercantile and political power, as well as an impeccable Exalted pedigree, to ensure that it’s hard for contemptuous peers or subordinates to make too much of it. It’s funny to me how the House descended from Sesus feels reminiscent of the practices of elder brother Ragara in terms of not playing the game established by the Empress fairly, with the degree to which their intelligence networks deny the lower classes the opportunity to rebel and protest; the idea that criminal organizations thrive in areas under their authority probably contributes to their inauspicious reputation. The relations with the Guild are especially interesting, between the idea that sabotaging Guild activities creates an environment in which business independent from both can grow and the especially compelling addition to the battle lines of more aggressive opposition on the Guild’s part presenting risks to the close ties Sesus has with Cynis (that House being made further interesting in retrospect with the idea that it is allied with two fierce rivals).

House Tepet has had so much time being emphasized as the falling star among the Scarlet Dynasty that it’s nice to get an external perspective on them which is more supportive, and I particularly like the way that their status as preservers of Shogunate traditions is tied into this. In keeping with the idea that the House might be in too dire straits to preserve what could be righteous about it, the point about how magnanimity might need to be foregone for the sake of acquiring the resources to keep themselves going works well. It’s also nice how their distinction is used to give them and their associates even more overt cultural variations; I’m all for the Houses as a whole preferring more practical garb, but I’ve always found the junihitoe to be such a striking form of garment that I’m glad that Tepet’s Shogunate stylings are used as a means of giving it presence in parts of the Realm and its satrapies. As for their wealth, I think it helps to prevent their losses from seeming to make them too toothless with the point that they could end up going straight to outright plunder of satrapies or prefectures under enemy Houses, and I find the idea that inhabitants of their own homeland hold them in such esteem (or at least preferable to alternatives) that they’re willing to help reduce shortfalls with sizable donations.

Huh; on reading the timeline, I’m sure I would have done the numbers pointing out that House V’neef is only fourteen, but somehow it didn’t quite land so solidly as it does when it’s put out here in a description of the House’s standing. It’s very fitting that the alphabetical order places this House at the end here, because it gives one perspective on the cultures and interests that are likely to be found in the many different prefectures (and maybe some satrapies) that V’neef has found herself with, for which she has not yet had the opportunity or structure to leave her own mark on. In What Fire Has Wrought, the point of how she’s been remanded so many outcastes, many quite experienced, made the House look stronger than ever to me, but here the point on how they don’t quite have a unitary culture illustrates the liabilities of it. As such, I’m also picturing the House a bit more through what might be the matriarch’s eyes; where before I thought there was something amusing (if endearing) about her being in a maternal position with respect to grizzled old veteran outcastes, the idea that she continuously tries to throw grand parties to cultivate a House identity and create a form of familial solidarity makes me imagine her as being a bit intimidated by many of the daughters and sons that she’s been saddled with, and hard-pressed in the highly unexpected modern climate to bind them together into a functional whole. On a similar note, I’d say that a bit of reality is brought down on the otherwise high-riding image of them being granted the lucrative Merchant Fleet and thumbing their nose in Western competition with Peleps; that a more holistic view illustrates the fact that they’re in a rather precarious position, saddled with significant expenses and sharply limited emergency resources, alliances, reputation or firmly established revenue streams. I particularly like the idea that trying to make up for these limits in their territories is making a very poor first impression, and is creating an environment in which people might rebel against them in general or even try to invite back former overlords. V’neef still has a lot going for it, and if this write-up emphasizes just how young they are as a House, it does so in a manner that makes clear some potential to grow up admirably (or at least be very interesting in the precise manner that they disastrously fall apart).

On a similar note, House Iselsi’s highly sinister write-up is touched with the prosaic in the points made here about how decades of dismantling has left it largely forgotten among the populace at large, and maintaining the elements of that sinister agenda have mundane necessities that they’re in an awkward position to maintain. I don’t find it to be a diminishing look; really, it helps provide them with some focus (and explanation for why execution of their vengeance might be slow-going) by pointing to the necessary maintenance requirements. It humanises them a bit. And I think it does well for them how some of the examples include adapting their disadvantage to further subvert and disrupt their enemies, sneaking around among their intrigues and skimming money where they can in a manner that leaves behind a lot of scapegoats.

I don’t really have anything more to say about chapter one. I should think that my comments throughout should illustrate how it has effectively covered the queries and wishes I raised towards the start, and my general regard for its utility and entertainment.

Isator Levie

Registered User
Validated User
Before I move on, something that I’ve found particularly helpful with the latter section of the previous chapter is some groundwork for coming up with the distribution of the Dragon Blooded around the Blessed Isle, which I’ve always felt to be one of the more difficult areas of making their presence sensible with their numbers. The key thing would be to regard them as not being deployed in a static manner, helped by the way that their power over prefectures is a more indirect thing; the only ones who might be expected to never really travel at all are the few elderly retirees.

The model I’ve got at the moment is that (of those who aren’t committed in work for the Imperial Service) at any given time, about a third of a given Great House will be concentrated in the home prefecture; most in the capital, with others distributed around a few of the lesser cities and towns and in country estates (those being either ones who are a bit on the outs or have a wish to be away from the bustle of the family at large, while still being only a day or so’s travel from them). Around a fifth will be in the Imperial City; those serving in the Deliberative are prominent there, as well as others serving House interests in the national capital. Maybe around one tenth have permanent settlements dotted around the Blessed Isle, often those who have retired or are otherwise inclined to a bit of isolation, such as a House’s sorcerers. The rest are in continuous circulation around the prefectures and satrapies, on assignment from House elders or overseeing their own branches of the business interests; for the prefectures, that also includes a lot of times visiting places where the interests of other Houses dominate, in which they’re looking for new opportunities (those will often be prefectures in which a cousin has been appointed prefect).

So you’ve got a situation in which only ten prefectures and the capital are ones in which there are sizable numbers of Dynasts altogether, but you’ll often have a few Dragon Blooded spread across a number of the others on a temporary basis. For maximum drama and intrigue, arrangements are often made to ensure that Exalts from multiple Houses are attending to the same prefecture at the same time, as their Houses often want them to keep tabs on one another; that’s liable to be the frontier in which a lot of deals are made.

I say temporary, but I’m picturing a situation in which assignment to interests in any given prefecture (or cluster of them) can last several years. Younger Dragon Blooded will be the most frequently on the move, at the same time as they’ll be experiencing the freshest pressure to have children, so a thing most likely to result in a couple laying down roots for a while far from their homeland will be falling pregnant in the middle of such excursions. Hence, Dynasts raising their children are often scattered all over, and in closer proximity to members of other Houses doing the same than they are to their own.

A key thing in this picture is that it’s a distribution of Exalted business rather than demographics, meaning that any given one can transition between the same; younger ones can end up among the ones spending extensive time in the home prefecture, while matriarchs and other established figures can be personally overseeing and advancing House interests, or engaged in other business (not to mention contributing to the upbringing of their youngest scions). I’m picturing Mnemon in particular as a matriarch who most evenly divides time between her domain and concerns across the prefectures, between her personal architectural work, ties to the Immaculate Order, and especially hands-on attitude to the House’s youth.

I think this works as a basis for how they can have presence and interactions without being spread too thin, as well as a basis for some dynamic activity on the Blessed Isle.

Isator Levie

Registered User
Validated User
The next chapter fiction is fairly straightforward. I like getting a look at a magistrate’s operations separate from the Exalt and a sense of how the archons can operate independently, as well as a sense for the methods and concerns of their investigations. The accompanying art doesn’t have much in the way of a scene, but the pastel style is nice and I like how distinct the three characters look. I’m not sure what to make of the eyes in the background; are they supposed to represent the bravos attacking them, or imply the presence of a shadowy mastermind?

Right, chapter two, The Machinery of Empire. I’ll be interested to see how this distinguishes itself from the related portions in the prior chapter, as well as how some older information might pop in the new style. It will also be nice if dedicating a chapter for this lets a few things that were a bit overlooked in the past get more attention.

Intro paragraphs are good for the basic information of what the thesis of the chapter is. I like the way that each branch of the service is given a little point about how the Time of Tumult is changing or disrupting it.

This opening for the magistrates gives a good sense for them. I find beginning on the point of how their operations and exploits make them figures of popular legend is a good thing to start with, to make them exciting and inviting. It further helps to characterise the Blessed Isle to imagine it as the staging ground for such adventures. The matter of how they’re forbidden to possess wealth is nothing new, but is made well to give the picture of both how their requisition powers can be utilized in the execution of their duties, and in how their lifestyles can be privileged but transitory. And we’re given their chief adversaries in the form of the ministries, with the setup for their current conflict. I enjoy the little reminder of their origins among the colleagues of the Empress from before her rise.

Often I’d question devoting a lot of attention to a state that has been transitioned away from, but for the magistrates it’s distinctly apt, since their change in circumstances is so drastic and understanding the background would be useful for developing stories about the grievances of their enemies. I also think it’s helpful to attribute them some authority over the Dragon Blooded when the conventional police came across as a lot more restrained; given the power that magistrates exercise, it gives me a sense that they’re both held above the usual political considerations and themselves feel confident to pursue charges against the Realm’s elite (although it’s interesting that a privilege of matriarchs is being immune from their judgements).

I’m finding this book to give a stronger emphasis to the point that the magistrates were the most visible presence of the Scarlet Empress throughout the Realm, which I think gives new life to the way she personally selected and appointed them. I’m imagining that her own presence could render being offered the position an especially powerful experience, and one that could strongly inform the backstories of characters. I think it’s good to emphasize how, although drawn from criminals, it’s of the type who might find themselves abused or pushed aside by the activities of the elite, to make such a pool of candidates feel more sensible and create motivated individuals. I also find it fun for there to be a line about selecting people who weren’t necessarily the best marriage material to ensure that such plans in the Dynasty aren’t disrupted, considering some of the stories in the fiction of previous Editions. Yes, it’s overtly making the point out of the Empress’ own charisma, in combination with going for such marginalized figures, is a basis for their particular loyalty, it gives the thing more punch than it had before, when it would merely be stated that she appointed them; in addition to being presented as part of what makes their own legend, I can imagine how magistrates impressively going about their duties helped promote the narratives of the Scarlet Empress and contribute to the sense among commoners that administrative grievances fall to figures obscuring her attention. Also good is developing the idea that new recruits receive semi-official training from the veterans gives a sense of camaraderie to what previously felt like a fairly isolated profession. I’d say that it gives them stronger prospects to whether the current crisis, and there’s something especially intriguing about the idea of many magistrates banding together to effect change rather than being scattered to be picked off one by one; it adds another layer to the upcoming civil war (and plays nicely with how V’neef is offering them refuge).

The regular reports back to the Empress benefit from the character added by the recruitment process, and I’m thinking that this emphasis on them as her agents and heroes of the Realm might help make their associated scribes into more prominent figures. Like the magistrates themselves, I think the description of archons has been improved a bit with a stronger emphasis on the benefits that breed personal loyalties, with the added detail of how it can constitute a path of social mobility otherwise unheard of in the Realm; I like the point made about them being selected for high potential left unrealised by their station in particular (both for the broader sense of regular people on the Blessed Isle and for the potential of having disputes for magistrates with Immaculate monks that they’re otherwise untouchable to). Also nice for the point of how magistrates are individuals, will not excel at everything that might be required of them, and there are more mortals than other Exalted to help cover their shortcomings. The matter of how the decree that archons may not outlive their magistrates is, while motivating, not a high priority to enforce for those archons who discretely disappear makes the idea a bit more grounded to me. I also like the attention given to the prospect of romantic liaisons, and how these add to the iconoclastic nature of those enforcers.

I take the point about the magistrates being attributed a rather freestyle approach to their duties, but think that it’s helpful to state that they had some particular priorities, even official assignments, to guide the image of where they might end up. There’s something amusing in the image of how Peleps, with its new reputation would often intersect with magistrates as a matter of course owing to their domains being particular hotspots for activity that the magistrates would be charged with working against. In addition to some clarity about how they divide jurisdiction, I like the description furthering their camaraderie with them tending to have dinner and hold discussion together in the event of crossing paths. The way that much of their day-to-day life consists of merely travelling and waiting to come across something to investigate adds a nice touch of the prosaic, in keeping with the game’s usual milieu, and the examples of the varied ways in which they might actually handle issues is both a fun read and looks useful for giving a clear image of what they do practically.

With all of that background dealt with, it gets to the subject of their current prospects. I think this may have often been an underserved topic, sometimes seemingly forgotten, and even when addressed in a slightly perfunctory manner. The approach here looks stronger to me; first there’s a better emphasis on exactly why the ministries are directing such hostility, and what they have to gain (as well as lose; I like the multi-faceted picture it gives of the Realm’s power players in making the point that undercutting the magistrates leaves the ministries themselves with more difficulty handling the Great Houses). It also makes the magistrates themselves feel a bit more proactive in the face of it, with the ideas such as how they’re assigning themselves out of reach in the satrapies or working to exercise their remaining official power to try and remove ministerial enemies, rather than trying to continue business as usual and hoping for the best. The idea of it as a kind of shadow war going on in parallel to the battle lines of the Scarlet Dynasty makes the future of the Realm feel more unstable and uncertain, as well as simply a more engaging play arena. And the stronger emphasis on their reputation does a lot to lend credibility to the idea that, should persecution of them cross a line, the commoners of the Isle might revolt of their own accord.

Ah, it’s nice to see that even in a section such as this we’re given a few example characters to inspire and make the subject less abstract. I think it also gives a good basis for understanding how Dynasts might end up in this position, that would otherwise seem very far removed from them. I like how several of them have a consistent theme of trying to seek some kind of redemption, or at least have first-hand insights into what they’re now charged with investigating. I think that it also helps to provide clarity to why criminals of the Realm might be the sorts who can be entrusted with such authority; that the values of this society might regard a number of things as deeply appalling that still don’t ultimately reflect too badly on one’s character. Sure an Immaculate abbot who violated chastity vows for an affair with a married Dynast would be a subject of significant disgrace, but probably not morally bankrupt or fundamentally untrustworthy enough that charging them with the duty of a wandering inquisitor is a terrible idea, especially when one might appeal to pre-existing ideals and frame it in terms of redoubling commitment to them. That and the odd time that the circumstances that make you technically a criminal can also leave you as somebody with a real axe to grind against the elites.

Another art piece that I don’t have much to say about, it’s just a nicely drawn and coloured picture of a typical investigation scene.

Hmm, that wasn’t too long… I think I can fit the ministries in here as well.

{About halfway through going through them}

Nope, there are a fuckton of ministries detailed. I’m honestly quite happy with that, for reasons that should be apparent when I get to them, but that’s going to have to wait until tomorrow and be a whole post to itself.

Robert Vance

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Only after all the PageXX bugs have been found.
The p. XX's aren't errors — the process of inputting corrections based on user feedback from these advance PDFs sometimes causes things to move onto the next page, so we don't finalize p. XX's until after we've done those corrections.


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Calling the native people of the Blessed Isle "Wan" is a little on the nose, but I'm okay with at least having a term now.


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Calling the native people of the Blessed Isle "Wan" is a little on the nose, but I'm okay with at least having a term now.
My headcanon has always been the stereotypical Blessed Isle commoner would look ethnically mixed based on how perceived races are divided in our world, between Meditteranean European and Han Chinese.


shit just got cute
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