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Mage: The Exalted

Thomas Ufnal Crowlake

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I’ve had a little idea I wanted to share with you. It’s about mixing Mage: the Awakening’s setting with an Exalted feeling and style. The premise would go something like this:

Nobody remembers when the Fall occured. Most do not even know it did, and for them this Fallen reality is all that there is. The sages, however, understand that at one time in the past – at innumerable different times in the past – the world was infinitely more than it is now, coexisting with a higher order of existence, the Supernal World, the origin, the meaning and the purpose of everything. In those pasts – for what little evidence survives of that time seems to portray many different and impossible to reconcile timelines – a great Empire existed, one inhabited by beings who could interact with the Supernal World and change the very fabric of reality. Call it Atlantis, Hy-Brasil, Hyperborea, Shamballa, however you wish – but know that it was glorious beyond imagination. Know also of its demise, the point in which all the timelines come crashing together – the moment when those that came to be the Exarchs ascended their Star Ladder to enter the Subtle Realms in their flesh and rule them as ruthless tyrants. That act broke Reality itself, tearing an abominable Abyss between the Supernal and our Fallen world, cutting humanity off from the source of power, meaning and solace and leaving it in a reality that falsely claims to be all there is and all there can be, populated by monsters and ruled by puppets of the Exarchs.

But this sorry state has come to an end. After uncountable centuries of slavery, a beacon of hope – five beacons in fact – now shines brightly. The Oracles, Ascended sages and archwizards of the Atlantises, have erected five Watchtowers in five Supernal Realms, reaching to the dreams and souls of worthy mortals and through a symbolic rite-de-passage letting them experience the Supernal and bring its power back into the world, Exalting them into a higher state of existence. Their eyes have been opened, now seeing the symbolic residues of Supernal meaning behind the thin, bleak facades of the so-called real world. Their souls have been transformed, now founts of otherworldly power. Their will has been fortified, now able to bend the false reality and expose the true powers hidden within.

The Acanthi, Scions of the Lunargent Thorn dancers upon the twisted paths of Time and Fate, fickle, mutable and deadly, bring both curses and blessings that rip through the destinies that the Exarchs bestowed upon the Fallen World.

The Mastigoi, Scions of the Iron Gauntlet, ever-present, ever-listening devils that feast on whispers never uttered, falsehoods never doubted and sins never revealed, bend both physical and mental landscapes to construct heavens and hells for those that cross their paths.

The Moroi, Scions of the Lead Coin, grim bringers of demise that they can see is present in all things, erect castles of molten obsidian with a thought and forge world-shattering blades from the souls of their enemies.

The Obrimoi, Scions of the Golden Key, masters of the hidden powers that flow under the skin of the universe, walk in blinding glory as they unveil the true nature of things and then burn them into ashes.

The Thyrsi, Scions of the Singing Stone, predatory shape-changing shamans who embody life in all of its forms and dangers, tear down the boundaries between physical and spiritual, man and beast, primal instinct and spiritual enlightenment.

Those Exalted by the Watchtowers may try to hide, but the Supernal power flowing in their veins cannot be supressed and concealed from the hungry eyes of the powers that be in this inferior realm. The pitiful human servants of the Exarchs and the terrifying Ochemata sub-souls that they can send from Above, the spirits, wraiths and petty gods, the vampires, beasts and Fae, the demons from unknown dimensions and the Gulmoth and Acamoth of the Abyss – they all want a piece of the Exalts, literally, and once the Scions of the Watchtowers reveal their powers, those foes can feel their call from miles away. The newly Awakened must quickly learn how to survive in their new plane of existence, gather their forces, search for power in old Atlantis ruins, Supernal incursions into the Fallen world and in the realms closer to the Supernal truth (the spiritual, hungry Shadow, the morose halls of the Underworld, the soulscapes of Astral) and grow in their understanding of and connection with the Supernal, so that they may challenge the Usurpers that sit on the Thrones of Reality.


This idea can be taken into several different directions. It can be played in a modern World of Darkness or in a more Exalted-like fantasy world, where the monsters and the minions of the Exarchs rule more openly. It can ignore the Orders entirely, translate them into more Exalted-feeling variations and give the characters more of a society to fit into, or (my current preferred option) revert them to the “Pieces of the Dragon” mythology and have the Exalted mirror the mystical castes of the Atlantises Before.

I think I’d couple this setting with some rules-light mechanics that could cope well with divine-scale, supernal-powered, reality-changing awesomeness, something like Wushu or Fate Accelerated – or, to have some of that freeform madness yet a little more substance and crunch, one could use Godbound. I can imagine a Mage or Exalted hack could also work, but I can’t imagine the amount of work it would require, especially in the case of Exalted.

So, what do you think?
 

Bejazeus

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I really like this idea! A system that might be able to pull it off would be City of Mist. I've been reading through the starter version of the rules whilst we wait for the final version to come out and I think it could easily do mage, exalted or scion, so a combination of mage and exalted should be no problem! :D
 

Propagandor

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I'm not really seeing how it's much different from Mage the Awakening tbh. It's got a more action over the top tone but it's basically the same.

The big change (which conflicts with the themes of Mage I think) is that the Watchtowers seem to be judging humans as worthy and exalting them (bestowing upon them the power). When in Awakening the new mage and claims the power (and their connection to the watchtower) by inscribing their name on it.
 

EndlessKng

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It's definitely intriguing. You may want to consult the Mage Chronicler's Guide. It has a lot of variants and subsystems you may find interesting to borrow from (especially the Superhero section at the end, with the Scaling rules).
 

Extinction Burp

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It's definitely intriguing. You may want to consult the Mage Chronicler's Guide. It has a lot of variants and subsystems you may find interesting to borrow from (especially the Superhero section at the end, with the Scaling rules).
Which also was the genesis of the new systems for Scion and Trinity. So there's that avenue to explore as well....
 

Thomas Ufnal Crowlake

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Thanks for the kind words and ideas, guys!

I'm not really seeing how it's much different from Mage the Awakening tbh. It's got a more action over the top tone but it's basically the same.

The big change (which conflicts with the themes of Mage I think) is that the Watchtowers seem to be judging humans as worthy and exalting them (bestowing upon them the power). When in Awakening the new mage and claims the power (and their connection to the watchtower) by inscribing their name on it.
Well, it is a general idea, one that you could as I mentioned put in a more Exalted-esque fantasy world for it to get way different. ;)

There are other changes in themes and tone, though I am not sure how well I managed to convey them - such as the fact that the recent occurence of Exaltations is supposed to partially mirror the return of Solars - suddenly a number of beings of immense potential, great power and connections to how the world was in a bygone age appear. There's also way less room for inter-MagExalted politics, intrigues and secret histories (as the Watchtowers only started to call people recently), but in turn way more room for crossovers with other splats (which, of course, would also have to be slightly or considerably changed). And while the MagExalted also explore Mysteries, it's less to uncover the secret workings of the universe and achieve enlightment and more to use those secrets against the Exarchs.

Other changes depend on the mechanics, basically with more freeform ones using magic to improvise awesome stuff would be easier, and the Paradox problably would have to be modified accordingly.
 

Isator Levie

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Heh, funnily enough, part of what originally drew me to Exalted was that it was a source of big action that I didn't really get (or want) from Mage: the Awakening. It's amusing to see a connection come around like this.
 

Ghosthead

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Pretty evocative. One point (and I guess a pretty big point): The writeup firmly bins Exalted's baseline theme of epic tragedy and heroes with feet of clay for Mage's gnosticism. In Exalted, the story puts the end of the First Age in the decline of the Solars' spiritual ancestors, to the point of exile. The successors work to build a flawed empire that they believe keeps humanity safe from anything worse. Here we work with the idea that the Exarchs ascend out of selfish interest and power and cut humanity from power to maintain their rule.

That's not wrong per se, but it does start off to a really very different footing. The baseline expectation that the backstory in Exalted implies (and some actually people hate this!) is that its a very real possibility that your character can become decadent and proud, and overreach even with the best of intentions, and that the "bad guys" may have been right to stop humans from holding that degree of individual power.
 

Extinction Burp

Sourpuss
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Pretty evocative. One point (and I guess a pretty big point): The writeup firmly bins Exalted's baseline theme of epic tragedy and heroes with feet of clay for Mage's gnosticism. In Exalted, the story puts the end of the First Age in the decline of the Solars' spiritual ancestors, to the point of exile. The successors work to build a flawed empire that they believe keeps humanity safe from anything worse. Here we work with the idea that the Exarchs ascend out of selfish interest and power and cut humanity from power to maintain their rule.

That's not wrong per se, but it does start off to a really very different footing. The baseline expectation that the backstory in Exalted implies (and some actually people hate this!) is that its a very real possibility that your character can become decadent and proud, and overreach even with the best of intentions, and that the "bad guys" may have been right to stop humans from holding that degree of individual power.
Not necessarily. It's easy for the Exarchs to turn around and say, "You think reality is shit now?! You should have seen what was coming before we took over. Trust us, trade-offs HAD to be made for everybody's sake." Basically, the same crap-feed they and their merry band of degenerate followers crank out now.
 

Thomas Ufnal Crowlake

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Not necessarily. It's easy for the Exarchs to turn around and say, "You think reality is shit now?! You should have seen what was coming before we took over. Trust us, trade-offs HAD to be made for everybody's sake." Basically, the same crap-feed they and their merry band of degenerate followers crank out now.
And on the other hand, Seers of the Throne/Abyssals-style betrayal are perfectly legitimate and one could argue that the Exarchs started off quite similar to Exalted, beings who could wield the Supernal powers who wanted to change the world...
 
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