In the Exalted Third Edition core book’s Antagonists chapter, a handful of what might otherwise be generic stat blocks contain individual character write-ups. These include Rain Plum, Duah Omorose, Smoking Crescent, Kina of Swanmare, Zoria, Sard, and the Prince of the Red Chamber. Aside from providing the occasional plot hook, they all serve as concrete examples of how unExalted non-player characters aren’t faceless drones there only to bend to your Exalt’s will or fall beneath her blade, but rather individuals with their own lives and loves, histories and personalities, hopes and fears.
But there used to be a lot more. Originally, every single mortal non-player character (and a few other antagonists) had such write-ups. Most were cut for space at various points in the development process. Luckily, my blog has no space limitations! So I’m posting all the cut individual antagonist write-ups here. Enjoy!
Born in the underground warrens of Fortitude, Cut burned to run with the Skullcracker gang. As a youth he claimed more than his share of food through theft and violence, making him bigger and stronger than most Undersiders—albeit still small and weedy by Northern standards. So he quickly graduated from lookout to thug, and when the time came for his gang initiation, he slit an old man’s throat without thought or scruple. Now he rides with the Skullcrackers beneath the Northern moon, cutting down merchants and guards for a share of their purses.
Irritable and impulsive, Cut is quick to anger and leaps into battle with reckless disregard for his own safety. He’s also dishonest and amoral, and will abandon or betray his fellows if offered a tantalizing reward. He takes pride in his patchwork panoply of scavenged gear—short bow, short sword, patched buff jacket painted with the gang’s cracked skull—and grows belligerent at any slight to his appearance.
Author’s note: Insofar as the sample characters were meant to emphasize the humanity of Creation’s masses, I realized that using a callous brute for the sample brigand—and for the first antagonist and mortal in the chapter—gave the wrong impression. So I replaced him with the following:
Brigand / Conscript / Militia (version 2)
After the Spandrelese army killed his family and put their farm to the torch, Rook joined No-Nose Chou’s bandits to continue fighting the invaders. Demanding money from passing merchants is unfortunate, but he accepts its necessity to fund the bandit troupe. Some of his new comrades were brigands even before the war—criminals, outlaws, killers, and thieves—but most, like him, are ordinary dispossessed citizens. All are his brothers and sisters now, and their camp has become his home.
Rook bears a patchwork panoply of scavenged gear—self bow, short sword, battered breastplate and pot helmet. He fights aggressively against foes associated with Spandrel, rushing to melee and hanging in with high morale. Against anyone else, he hangs back to plink away with his bow, and is liable to flee or surrender.
Nomadic Horse-Archer / Medium Cavalry
Raised in a sheep-herding clan amid the Ghadan, a hilly region southeast of Chiaroscuro, Zaidi Farid learned many skills—riding and hunting, foraging and orienteering, archery and swordsmanship. But his foremost lessons were of Delzahn honor, and he took those teachings to heart. “Never withhold hospitality or reject a gift,” his uncles taught him. “Never forget an obligation or betray a guest. Never yield to pain or fear. And always, always repay an insult—whether to yourself, your kin, or your tribe—with blood.”
Farid rides to war clad in leather and silk lamellar, armed with bow, lance, and sword. He and his comrades employ skirmish tactics against large forces or unnatural foes, firing and falling back to stay out of melee range. Against seemingly weaker or outnumbered opponents, they advance in a disordered rush, ready to fight to the death to win glory through valor. He wears his sword and gray veil even off the battlefield, ready to cross blades with anyone who impugns his character—or to cut them down if they refuse an honorable duel.
Lintha Reaver / Brigand Leader / Grizzled Mercenary
When he killed a high-ranking citizen who’d refused to repay a gambling debt, the Azurite sailor Xu Han fled his homeland to escape execution in the Kraken’s Pool. After a few years of odd jobs and petty crime in the Auspice Isles, he obtained membership in the Lintha Family through an initiation marked by the swearing of dread oaths and a gruesome castration. Now he sails aboard the Coral Jaw out of a Lintha sea-fort, raiding merchant ships among the Near Western archipelagoes.
Xu Han is a brutal, ruthless fighter. In boarding actions he rushes forward in concert with his shipmates, uttering bloodcurdling cries to alarm and demoralize foes. Under other circumstances he attempts to gain surprise. He has a keen eye for markers of status, knowing who to kill and who to take hostage for ransom. His salt-corroded panoply includes javelins, axe, dagger and a reinforced buff jacket—he does not eschew armor because, like many sailors, he cannot swim.
Elite Troops / Champion / Elite Bodyguard
Shigira Mizue was raised in the Weaver’s Lodge of Randan. Although she was a prodigy with the sword, her impatience with hours at the loom and her lack of talent for thaumaturgy closed off access to the highest ranks of the lodge. Instead of struggling to overcome her weaknesses, she focused on her strengths, training relentlessly to become a master duelist. Now she serves as her aunt Okita’s bodyguard and champion.
Mizue’s brocade armor—enchanted to the strength and weight of steel—is so brilliantly dyed that it seems to glow from within, while her scabbard blazes with gems. She requires this rich panoply to be seen in the company of the great artisan-nobles of Randan, where she advises her aunt in matters of violence and danger. If called upon to defend her mistress or to stand in for her in a duel, she will fulfill her obligations unto death.
Sijanese Deadspeaker / Exorcist / Shaman
Apprenticed to the Funerists’ Observance at a young age, White Poem was trained in the funereal traditions and burial rites of dozens of cultures. But she lacked aptitude for the work, eventually botching a funeral service and unleashing a hungry ghost. To impress upon her the consequences of such errors, her superior reassigned her to the Deadspeakers’ Observance for a year’s duty as an exorcist’s assistant. But she found she had both talent and inclination for the job, and she volunteered to remain an exorcist indefinitely.
White Poem possesses several tools to repel the angry dead. Her staff and silver rank-bracers bear enchantments making them tangible to ghosts. Her satchel contains salt, incense and other substances useful in warding and banishing rites. But her primary weapons are words and wit. It’s better to calm or trick a furious spirit than face it in combat, and if battle proves necessary, a silver tongue may persuade other skilled individuals—such as the players’ characters—to join the fight.
Monk / Warrior-Priest
Raised near the ghost-plagued ruins of Gildei, a Northern city massacred centuries ago by the Anathema Jochim in his war against the Realm, Arrow witnessed the suffering of the unquiet dead and the horrors they inflict on the living. This inspired him first to seek ordination as an Immaculate monk in distant Pneuma, and later to volunteer for the Wyld Hunt. He sees his work in the Immaculate Order—educating the peasantry, interceding on their behalf with small gods, succoring the plague-stricken, demanding respect and dignity for outcasts and untouchables—not as a duty, but as a privilege.
Arrow wears no armor, relying on martial arts skill and hook swords for both offense and defense. He fights with calm determination to protect the innocent and oppose wicked spirits. He is willing to debate with Anathema—not in hopes of converting them, but to dissuade onlookers who have entered their service. He will not throw his life away recklessly, and if outmatched, he surrenders in hopes of an opportunity to continue such proselytization.
Assassin / Spymaster
Parayar Irumporai is a ruthless killer. Born to a servant in a wealthy Champoor household, he befriended the heir, Thangam Ari, by doing the other boy’s dirty work—lying, spying, manipulation, theft and violence. As an adult, he stands at Ari’s left hand and performs the same tasks—only now they extend to murder. As wealthy patrons are few and unscrupulous thugs are many, he feels fortunate to have his position and offers prayers and sacrifices to the murder-god Pitiless Bronze.
Irumporai wears his chopping sword openly and conceals throwing knives and a breastplate beneath his clothes. His assassination strategy relies as much on social skills as sneakiness. He relies on guile, bribes and threats to get at targets in vulnerable moments, such as while bathing or in a lover’s embrace. When working with hired thugs or other assassins, he assigns some to hold bodyguards at bay while the deed is done. Persuading him to betray his employer is not impossible, but he knows the value of loyalty and is loath to sever a lifelong relationship.
When the plague came to Vesper, Dare perished like many of his kin. In the plague’s wake walked the necromancer who raised the disease-ridden dead as mindless servants. When Dare’s wife took up arms against the defiler, she hesitated when faced by the walking carcass of her love. Now the thing’s face is crusted with her clotted gore and scraps of her flesh cling beneath its fingernails. Though maggots cluster around its eye sockets and the left side of its face is torn away to expose ragged muscle and bone, it remains recognizable as something that once was human.
Erymanthus, the Blood Ape
Though vicious and brutal as any of her kin, Hezura is far more catholic in her taste for blood. Where most erymanthoi prize hot fresh gore, particularly that of humans or cats, she is unconcerned with the source of her nourishment, and is as content to lap up puddles of cold blood from the dirt as to drink it steaming from the vein. Though this quality makes her a more manageable servant, it comes with a lackadaisical laziness that infuriates many sorcerers.
Neomah, the Maker of Flesh
All neomah are creatures of passion. Most invest their fervor in their craft, seeking to master the arts of love and procreation. A few find themselves enthralled by other arts—music or dance, jewelry or poisons. Very rarely do their passions involve lovers and progeny, for whom they feel only a cool, distant affection.
Eleutho is one of those rare exceptions. It fell in love with a sorcerer who summoned it decades ago. Now it has grown obsessed with that sorcerer, incorporating elements of his appearance into its own shapeshifting and into the children it crafts. It even nurtures some curiosity regarding the child it shaped for the sorcerer—a seemingly mortal child—a child who has now Exalted.
Wears Red is of the Gennanthua, an Eastern tribe in service to the lupine Fair Folk Gennan, whom they worship as a god. Gennan devoured a piece of Wears Red’s soul during her coming-of-age rite, and now she knows no pity. Beneath a cape of scarlet feathers, her skin is covered with intricate patterns of scars and vivid spirals of body paint. She and her fellow warriors raid neighboring tribes and outlying settlements alike for food, tools, and weapons, not to mention prisoners to feed Gennan in exchange for his aid on the hunt and in war.