setting

Exalted 3e: Individual Antagonist Write-ups

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!


Brigand / Conscript / Militia (version 1)

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.

Zombie

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.

Wyld Barbarian

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.

Advertisements

Firewands, Firearms, and Description through Absence

firewand_by_meluranI’ve seen some worried grumbling from players concerned that Exalted Third Edition’s focus on Bronze Age sword & sorcery thematics will shut down elements of play they desire. This gives the impression that the books will contain sections explicitly forbidding players from inventing gunpowder, devising technology-flavored magical items, building assembly lines for enchanted devices, or other related setting elements. But that’s not how it’s done! Often, the best way to define setting elements is through silence.

For a specific example, let’s look at the presentation of firedust weaponry in Exalted. Firewands—single-shot weapons hurling short gouts of flame—are vaguely akin to muskets in style, but lack the overwhelming effect on military tactics. But they’re not just there for flavor.

The world of Exalted doesn’t allow for gunpowder weaponry. This is because massed rifle formations and the like both deny the thematic importance of individual warrior-heroes in the setting, and invalidate the Bronze Age aesthetic of Creation’s warfare. Thus, the game assumes that gunpowder is not available, and presents no mechanics for firearms, artillery, bombs, and the like.

This also presumes that your PC won’t be the first person ever to invent gunpowder. Let’s set aside the immersion-breaking exceptionalism of such an act in a setting where thousands of other genius savants have experimented with alchemy over the centuries without making the same discovery, as that’s not the real issue. Rather, it completely changes the nature of the game if we presume that natural law in the setting is identical to that of the real world with a layer of magic slathered on top, allowing a PC savant to discover and deploy all the things—gunpowder, C4, weaponized anthrax, plutonium—and use them to steamroll the setting.

Failing to address this in the text can be problematic. Obviously, if your whole gaming group really wants to play out Lest Darkness Fall, more power to you, and an overly didactic sidebar explicitly forbidding your group from doing so is pointless at best and harmful at worst. But if the issue isn’t raised at all, groups divided on the matter need to hash out the details on their own, and can find themselves unexpectedly drifting into an undesirable play experience.

Exalted deftly handles the matter through the introduction of firedust weaponry. By their presence, they point to the absence of firearms without ever using the word “gunpowder.” In filling the aesthetic role of firearms and a similar (albeit significantly more limited) mechanical role, they make it clear that the setting doesn’t use real-world firearms without forcing that fact on the reader. And as an added bonus, they provide a baseline for firearm mechanics for groups who want to hack such things into the rules for their game.

As to what the absence of gunpowder means more broadly for the application of real-world natural laws to fantasy settings, that’s a matter for another blog post.

Melammu and the Exalted Anima

The anima, a mantle of divine radiance possessed by the Exalted in Onyx Path’s RPG of that name, is nothing original. Such glows form a mainstay of Christian iconography, appearing as either a head-crowning halo or a body-encircling aureole. Similar imagery appears in Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic iconography over the past two thousand years. But such luminescence predates the Christian era. A prime example appears in Homer’s Iliad:

But Achilles dear to Jove arose, and Minerva flung her tasselled aegis round his strong shoulders; she crowned his head with a halo of golden cloud from which she kindled a glow of gleaming fire.

Another pre-Christian motif resembling the Exalted anima is the velificatio. This veil-like aura, its name derived from the Latin for setting sail, surrounds certain gods in ancient Roman art—as well as emperors who have been granted divinity.

We can trace the nimbus even farther back, however, to ancient Mesopotamia. There it took the form of the melammu, a light or fire granted by the highest of gods that denoted power and authority. This has long been an obscure concept; I’d never heard of it until I did some in-depth research into Mesopotamian mythology in 2011 for my home Scion game. There’s not a lot of information to be found about melammu online, but this paper appears to be a good resource. It includes a number of instances wherein Mesopotamian monarchs or mythic heroes are endowed with solar or lunar radiance, granting or embodying a measure of divine power and authority. It’s well worth a look!

Medieval_Persian_manuscript_Muhammad_leads_Abraham_Moses_Jesus
amaterasu-7045317_std
Melammulogo

Ink Monkey Bones #12: Auguinare, the Blood of the Forge

The following Second Circle demon was originally designed for my first Exalted chronicle back in 2002. I wrote her up several years later for Manual of Exalted Power—Infernals; I’d planned to throw in a few crafting-related demons to supplement the equipment chapter, and the book’s crazy deadline made me look back to my previous work rather than invest time in designing new NPCs from scratch. When putting demons in Infernals proved a non-starter, I pushed her back to Compass of Celestial Directions—Malfeas. But after taking a good hard look at her, I cut her from my outline because she’s too thematically and mechanically similar to Alveua and Berengiere, and I wanted to use my limited wordcount to provide broader options for Storytellers and demon-summoning PCs. Still, she has her fans, so here she is in all her 2e glory.


<3>Auguinare, the Blood of the Forge

<n>Demon of the Second Circle, Expressive Soul of the Manse of Echoes Ascending

When Amalion first found delight in her own loveliness, the Blood of the Forge appeared to share that delight with her. Auguinare remains her progenitor’s most favored soul; the Manse of Echoes Ascending pampers her, granting her whims and calling her ‘daughter.’ She appears as an alabaster-skinned maiden with glossy black hair and six fingers on each hand. Her eyes glow a luminous violet hue; her blood shares that color, hardening into violet metal when spilled and taking on whatever form she desires.

Sorcerers summon Auguinare through orgiastic rites or human sacrifice. The common element of these rituals is neither blood nor life; rather, Auguinare craves passion, and only sufficient passion may call her across the bars of her prison. Emotion is her hallmark; when she sheds her blood, whatever emotion she feels in her heart pulses in the depths of the resulting bloodmetal. Anyone who touches a bloodmetal item’s warm, shining surface feels the fervor locked within it. Moreover, she may admix her own blood with another’s, imbuing the resulting alloy with the donor’s emotions rather than her own.

Auguinare needs no forge, for her intent shapes her bloodmetal more precisely than any blacksmith’s hammer. She travels about the demon prison in search of demons whose passions inspire her craft. Mortal emotion is more precious still, for all that its metal rusts in the fullness of time, and she seeks it out whenever she may. Infernal artificers petition her to contribute her metals to their relics, as demonic Essence bonds more easily with materials that share its nature. Ligier himself calls upon her to supply bloodmetal for his works, and the Shogunate-era Register of Enchanted Weapons dubs her ‘the Mother of Gervesin.’

Ordinary emotion suffices for ordinary craft, but she requires emotions of preternatural potency to do her finest work. To incite passions among her blood sources, she practices play-acting in many modes: student, confidante, lover or adversary. She utterly submerges herself in her chosen persona, only to shed it like a serpent’s skin when the need passes. Afterwards, all she feels is a dwindling affection for those who contributed to her craft. The passions she craves often inspire the potent voices that Berengiere seeks to weave into cloth, and their squabbles over ardent mortals (and over Berengiere’s passion morays, many of whom Auguinare has suborned) have resulted in a long-standing rivalry.

Summoning: (Obscurity 2/4) Summoners invoke Auguinare to forge items of bloodmetal or to provide exotic ingredients from which to craft wonders. She has also been employed to seduce or suborn a target, though she always seeks to inspire a passion in the chosen victim that she may congeal into metal. She occasionally emerges from Malfeas when mortal blood, shed in a moment of passion, falls upon molten metal.

Motivation: To work great passion into metal. Auguinare’s Intimacies include such things as Amalion, blood, metal, smiths, her mortal lovers, her creations and the last three beings to willingly give her some of their blood for her craft.

Attributes: Strength 5, Dexterity 6, Stamina 5; Charisma 4, Manipulation 3, Appearance 5; Perception 5, Intelligence 3, Wits 4

Virtues: Compassion 2, Conviction 4, Temperance 3, Valor 3

Abilities: Athletics 2, Awareness 4, Craft (Fire) 3 (Bloodmetal +3), Dodge 4, Integrity 2, Linguistics (Native: Old Realm; Others: Flametongue, High Realm, Low Realm, Riverspeak, Guild Cant) 5, Lore 3, Martial Arts 4, Medicine 3 (Drawing Blood +2), Melee 4, Occult 2, Presence 5, Performance 4, Resistance 4, Socialize 3 (Staying In Character +3)

Backgrounds: Artifact 5, Backing 3, Contacts 3, Cult 1, Mentor 5, Resources 5, Sanctum 2

Charms:

Amethyst Awareness

Call—Those gripped in the throes of powerful emotions

Creation of Perfection—Transform freshly drawn blood into metal

Essence Plethora—10 extra motes

Foretell the Future—Auguinare can sometimes predict when and where a particularly potent emotion will be felt, such as the flare of passion from a Celestial Exalt’s Limit Break

Materialize—Costs 70 motes

Measure the Wind—The Blood of the Forge may measure the strength of any creature whose blood she has turned to metal

Meat of Broken Flesh—Auguinare gains motes when she draws blood to craft into metal

Natural Prognostication—Sense impending moments of passion

Ox-Body Technique

Principle of Motion—Auguinare possesses up to nine banked actions

Stoke the Flame—Strengthen an emotion currently felt

Touch of Grace—Repair things of metal with a touch

Sheathing the Material Form—If Auguinare has a bleeding wound (at least one unbound, unhealed level of lethal damage), her blood spreads and hardens into armor

Symbol of Invincible Authority—Immunity to anything she has crafted

First (Ability) Excellency—Craft, Presence, Resistance

Second (Ability) Excellency—Craft, Presence, Resistance

Third (Ability) Excellency—Craft, Presence, Resistance

Infinite (Ability) Mastery—Craft

Join Battle: 8

Attacks:

Punch: Speed 5, Accuracy 11, Damage 5B, Parry DV 6, Rate 3

Kick: Speed 5, Accuracy 10, Damage 8B, Parry DV 4, Rate 2

Clinch: Speed 6, Accuracy 10, Damage 5B, Parry DV —, Rate 1, Tags P

Bloodmetal Sword (Amethyst Bodhisattva of Wrath): Speed 4, Accuracy 14, Damage 9L, Parry DV 6, Rate 3

Soak: 12L/15B (Robes of hatesilver embroidered with threads of gold-of-enlightenment, 10L/10B, -2 mobility penalty, 2 fatigue value)

Health Levels: -0/-1/-1/-1/-1/-1/-1/-2/-2/-2/-2/-2/-2/-4/Incap

Dodge DV: 8 (6 in armor-robes)        Willpower: 9

Essence: 6            Essence Pool: 115

Other Notes: Auguinare may harvest bloodmetal from any creature with life-giving fluids pumping through its veins. Her own blood is lambent violet metal, while mortal blood congeals into flaking, rusty iron. Other beings yield metal with distinct characteristics based on the nature of their Essence. For instance, the blood of a Solar Exalt produces gold, Ligier’s blood forms luminous green iron, and the vital fluids of Ululaya, the Blood Red Moon, harden into crimson silver. Treat an item made from bloodmetal as superior equipment (see Exalted, pp. 133-134, 139, 365-366). Its properties depend on the strength and nature of the imbued passion; an ordinary emotion generates fine equipment, an emotion anchored to an Intimacy results in exceptional equipment and an emotion rooted in a Motivation produces perfect equipment or an exotic ingredient for crafting an artifact or infernal relic. Specific bonuses follow from the nature of the emotion; a sword forged from fear might have high Defense, for example, while one drawn from hate might deal more Damage. Draining an emotion into metal purges it from the donor’s heart, but it will return with time. If an Intimacy or Motivation is poured into bloodmetal, it is lost. Acquiring a new Motivation to replace one lost in this way requires the usual expenditure of two experience points.

Auguinare suffers a one-die penalty when working with the five magical materials of Creation because her nature is not aligned with them.

Ink Monkey Bones #11: Gemstone Ocean Hero

This Hell-dwelling Dragon-Blood was originally mentioned in passing in Roll of Glorious Divinity V. I put him in my outline for Compass of Celestial Directions: Malfeas along with a handful of other non-demon antagonists, but only got partway through his write-up before I realized that I wouldn’t have room to fit him in. (I wrote way too much for that book, on the principle that I could then cut the weakest antagonists from the chapter for a stronger result.) Later, I worked on finishing him up so he could go up on the Ink Monkeys blog, only for the blog to close up shop before I was quite done. Here he is in all his 2011 glory!

I’d like to give a special thanks to Richard Hughes, also known as Kukla on the Onyx Paths forums, for helping me polish off Gemstone Ocean Hero’s combat stats. (Now that I’m working on 3e, the 2e combat rules have become a distant memory for me.) Thanks, Richard!


Gemstone Ocean Hero

The Dancing Stranger, Water Aspect

As a small child, Gemstone Ocean Hero was found on the shore of the Western isle of Orchid after a storm, a precious jewel cast up by the sea. Priests of the Western fertility-god Gomata took him in and raised him as a temple dancer. The child became ever more beautiful and graceful as he grew older, enthralling all who encountered him. Gomata himself favored the boy, taking him as a lover when he came of age.

At the age of eighteen, Gemstone Exalted while defending the temple from marauding Lintha. Instead of staying on Orchid or joining the Realm as a legionnaire or a monk, he chose to wander the Threshold and taste civilization on his own terms. He spent years immersing himself in new cultures and experiences while pursuing his fascination with dance and its ancillary disciplines—music, acting and the martial arts. Within a decade he was the most celebrated dancer in the Threshold, and his repute stretched as far as the Blessed Isle.

For all his finely-honed skill and supernatural puissance, Gemstone craved earthly things: wealth, lovers and powerful patrons. He cut a romantic swath through every city he visited, bedding many prominent men—and a few equally prominent women—in the wake of each performance. He likewise accepted offers from Threshold lords to spy on their rivals, and eventually entered the service of the All-Seeing Eye. In time, his path led him to a prolonged liaison with the wealthiest and most powerful man in the world: Ragara, eldest son of the Scarlet Empress.

By this time, the Empress had become aware of Gemstone’s skills. Perhaps to separate her son—whose ambitions she still scrutinized, despite his ostensible withdrawal from Dynastic politics—from such a gifted intelligence asset, she personally offered Gemstone the assignment of a lifetime: to act as her personal agent in Malfeas. As vulnerable as ever to the blandishments of the mighty, he agreed. As the All-Seeing Eye’s agents spread word of his retirement into anonymous seclusion, Gemstone crossed the threshold into the Demon City.

Gemstone Ocean Hero never lacks for patrons or lovers among the jaded aristocracy of Hell, for he dances so brilliantly, so beguilingly, that demons of the Second Circle view him as a peer. Meanwhile, he practices the spy’s trade for demons willing to purchase the services of an outsider—and conveys what he learns to certain oft-conjured demons to pass along to their Iselsi summoners.

For the moment, Makarios serves as Gemstone’s Infernal sponsor. Alas, the Sigil’s Dreamer is a jealous paramour who parades the Dragon-Blood around as a living ornament. In spare moments, Gemstone indulges in affairs with more free-spirited demons, such as Florivet, Janequin and certain First Circle ingénues. When Makarios discovers this infidelity—as he inevitably will—the consequences may prove dire.

Motivation: To master the arts of dance and desire. Gemstone’s Intimacies include dancing, beauty, fame, triumph, lovers, strong benefactors and the sea.

Aspect: Water

Anima Banner: Luminous sea creatures whirling in intricate patterns through streamers of sea-green water. Due to his prolonged stay in Malfeas, the sea creatures have a distinctly alien cast.

Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 5, Stamina 3; Charisma 4, Manipulation 3, Appearance 5; Perception 3, Intelligence 3, Wits 3

Virtues: Compassion 2, Conviction 3, Temperance 2, Valor 4

Abilities: Athletics 3, Awareness 3 (Patterns of Movement +2), Bureaucracy 2, Dodge 4 (While Unarmed +2), Integrity 2, Investigation 3, Larceny 3, Linguistics (Native: Seatongue, Other: Flametongue, High Realm, Old Realm, Riverspeak, Skytongue) 5, Lore 3, Martial Arts 4 (While Immaculately Well-Dressed and Well-Groomed +2), Occult 3 (Malfeas +1), Performance 5 (Dancing +3), Presence 3, Resistance 3 (Prolonged Exertion +3), Ride 1, Sail 2, Socialize 5 (Seduction +1), Stealth 3

Backgrounds: Allies 2, Artifact 4 (Bracers of Silver Flame), Artifact 2 (Silken Armor), Backing 1 (Makarios), Contacts 1, Cult 1 (venerated by mortal dancers in the Threshold), Mentor 2, Resources 4

Charms:

Athletics: Effortlessly Rising Flame

Dodge: Third Dodge Excellency, Threshold Warding Stance, Hopping Firecracker Evasion, Safety Among Enemies

Larceny: First Larceny Excellency

Martial Arts: First Martial Arts Excellency

Performance: First Performance Excellency, Hidden Petal Aria Method, Soul-Stirring Performance Method

Presence: Auspicious First Meeting Attitude

Resistance: Ox-Body Technique, Third Resistance Excellency, Strength of Stone Technique, Impervious Skin of Stone Meditation, Vitriol Protection Form

Socialize: First Socialize Excellency, Sweeten-the-Tap Method, Jade Defense, Warm-Faced Seduction Style, Wary Yellow Dog Attitude

Golden Janissary Style: All Charms

Terrestrial Hero Style: Currents Sweep to Sea, Pounding Surf Style, Flow from the Rocks, Terrestrial Hero Form

White Veil Style: Alehouse Memory Stance

Join Battle: 6 (Applicable Charm: Wary Yellow Dog Attitude)

Attacks:

Punch: Speed 5, Accuracy +1, Damage 3B, Parry DV 6, Rate 3
Kick: Speed 5, Accuracy +0, Damage 6B, Parry DV 4, Rate 2
Clinch: Speed 6, Accuracy +0, Damage 3B, Parry DV —, Rate 1, Tags P

Soak: 7L/6B (Silken armor, 5L/3B)

Health Levels: -0/-1/-1/-1/-2/-2/-2/-4/Incap

Dodge DV: 9 (8 if armed) Willpower: 8

Essence: 4

Personal Essence: 12 Peripheral Essence: 31

Committed Essence: 6

Other Notes: Despite his youthful countenance, Gemstone Ocean Hero is well over two hundred old and possesses a wide range of abilities. Decades of residence in Hell have left him jaded; little in Creation could shock him now.

Gemstone wears silken armor and a pair of hearthstone bracers forged from blue and green jade. His home contains all manner of valuables, including a sizable library containing works on infernal history and culture, texts on Malfean dances and martial arts training manuals.

Four gilmyne serve Gemstone Ocean Hero. Sharing their master’s flying copper house, they serve as both bodyguards and tutors, educating him in the thousands of dances known to their race.

[BEGIN BOXED TEXT]

Vitriol Protection Form

This variant of the (Element) Protection Form Charm (see Manual of Exalted Power: Dragon-Blooded, p. 147) provides a soak bonus against vitriol-based elemental attacks, including hellwands, and attacks with vitriol-tainted jade weapons. The Dragon-Blood adds his Essence to his (Stamina + Resistance) pool to resist immersion in vitriol, Malfean flame and other baneful substances native to Hell. When this Charm is in effect, it turns the user’s skin the sickly ocher hue of tainted jade.

[END BOXED TEXT]

[BEGIN BOXED TEXT]

Harmonious Silver Sentinel (Artifact ***, Sapience ***)

This hovering orb of Malfean silver emits music akin to a harp strung with bells. It contains the Essence of a neomah-crafted First Circle demon, a hybrid of angyalka and gilmyne. The orb provides all of the normal benefits of an Ever Vigilant Guardian (see Wonders of the Lost Age, p.104-105), although its attacks take the form of blasts of congealed music and silver fire rather than bolts of raw Essence. It also provides its owner access to a handful of Spirit Charms. The orb is always warm to the touch; wisps of fragrant smoke trail from it when it moves. (For more details on hellforged wonders, see The Manual of Exalted Power: Infernals, pp.196-199.)

Ordinarily, a hellforged wonder may not use its Charms independently. Automatons such as the Harmonious Silver Sentinel lack this restriction; like hellstriders, they have full access to their own Charms.

Urge: Express the splendor of the world through music and/or dance.

Attributes: Strength 1, Dexterity 5, Stamina 5; Charisma 5, Manipulation 3, Appearance 3; Perception 5, Intelligence 3, Wits 5

Virtues: Automaton: Never fails Valor checks, never makes others

Abilities: Archery 5, Awareness 5, Dodge 5, Integrity 5, Performance 5, War 5

Charms:

Essence Bite—Silver flames enshroud the sentinel (4L damage)

Hoodwink—Emits mesmerizing lights and tones

Natural Prognostication—The sentinel’s music indicates the incipience of peril, opportunity and moments of change

First (Ability) Excellency—Awareness, Dodge, Performance

Join Battle: 10

Attacks:

Beam: Speed 4, Accuracy 11, Damage 14B or 10L, Range 50, Rate 3

Soak: 10L/13B (Hardness: 3L/3B)

Health Levels: -0/-1/-1/-1/-2/-2/-2/-4/Incap

Dodge DV: 5 + (half the user’s Essence) Willpower: 10 (0 against its owner)

Essence: 3 Essence Pool: 30

[END BOXED TEXT]

Exalted: Non-Alcoholic Beverages in Creation

Image provided by the Penn Provenance ProjectRight now I’m pretty busy with another Exalted 3e assignment, but I haven’t posted anything since Wednesday. So let’s get back to that “Beverages in Creation” thing that I promised a sequel to a while back!

Milk: People have been drinking milk for millennia. Aside from cows, dairy animals include such creatures as sheep, goats, water buffalo, donkeys, horses, camels, yaks, reindeer, and even moose. I assume that, as on Earth, some of Creation’s peoples are lactose-intolerant, but even lactose-intolerant people can more easily digest milk if they regularly eat live yogurt, which definitely exists in the setting. In that vein, fermented milk beverages with little to no alcohol, such as ayran, doogh, kefir, and lassi, have long pedigrees and doubtless exist in Creation, especially in parallel Southern cultures where milk spoils quickly in the heat of the day. Buttermilk and whey, as byproducts of other dairy processes, would also be common wherever butter and cheese are made. And in medieval England, boiled milk was even added to ale or wine to make a curdled drink called a posset. (This would have gone into the “Alcoholic Beverages in Creation” post if I’d thought of it at the time.)

Fruit drinks: I’ve found little information on historical use of fruit juices as a beverage. Grape juice was turned into wine, apple juice into cider, and so forth. The wealthy throughout Creation doubtless have access to luxurious fruit drinks like the classic iced Persian sherbet, but beyond that, crushing fruit to drink unfermented juice would seem to be something of an extravagance, as the juice spoils quickly and extracting it wastes the rest of the fruit. Exceptions include coconut water, which would be consumed seasonally in Western and Southwestern coconut-growing regions, and citrus-based drinks such as lemonade. Beverages made from cooking down fruit, such as blåbärssoppa or hwachae, also seem viable, though my limited research doesn’t indicate whether such beverages have long histories.

Utamaro_Naniwaya_OkitaTea: Common in tropical and subtropical regions, an infusion made with the dried leaves of the tea plant has long been drunk as a stimulant in eastern and southern Asia. Various cultivars and styles of tea are likewise common in Creation’s cultures that share the appropriate cultures and climates: the Southwest, the Southeast, and the southern shores of the Blessed Isle. Any number of other herbal teas, from coca leaf to ginseng to rose hip to yerba mate, can also be found throughout Creation.

Coffee: The history of coffee drinking only goes back to the 14th century, but it’s sufficiently iconic for later medieval Islamic societies that we’ll make allowances. It’s doubtless consumed in appropriate locales such as Chiaroscuro or Jiara, and is made by boiling ground coffee beans in water like modern Turkish coffee. An interesting note regarding the origins of coffee cultivation: As with Chinese silkworms, Yemeni coffee beans were originally a carefully guarded resource. Exported beans were heat-sterilized so they couldn’t grow. Eventually a Sufi monk smuggled a handful of fertile beans to India, from whence coffee cultivation spread across the world. Guild merchants may well have a monopoly on coffee production and shipping in Creation—one which an enterprising PC merchant could seek to break.

Cacao: Drinks made from the cacao bean should have appeared in the previous post, as it seems that early Mesoamerican cacao drinks were fermented. Preparations varied—the Mayans served it hot and frothy, mixed with chile peppers and maize flour, while the Aztec elite drank it cold with chile, spices, and honey. Cacao beans, which were prized as currency, traveled long distances through the trade networks of the Americas. The Pueblo peoples, over a thousand miles away, appear to have consumed chocolate as well. In Creation, it’s most likely drunk in far Eastern societies such as Ixcoatli.

Grain water: There’s a long tradition of boiling cereals to produce a drink rather than a solid food. Examples include Korean sikhye and sungnyung (rice), ancient Greek kykeon (barley), Andean chichi morada (maize), etc. Even soy milk, which seems like a modern invention, can be traced back close to two thousand years. Such beverages doubtless exist throughout Creation.

Vinegar drinks: Posca, consumed by the Roman army and the poor, was a mixture of vinegar and water. I’d only expect to see it as a byproduct of the viticulture industry in places that produce so much wine that some of it would regularly go sour; the southern Blessed Isle probably best fits the bill. Persian sekanjabin seems a bit more upscale.

Iced drinks: Ice has been used to cool drinks for millennia. Common folk in the North can store ice through the summer. Elsewhere in Creation, storing snow and ice from the winter or carting it down from mountaintops is a matter for the wealthy and powerful.

Ink Monkey Bones #7: The City God of Damanara

Here’s the remainder of the Ink Monkeys writeup on the city of Damanara, detailing the city god and her divine steed. I hope this will be of some small value to people playing Exalted 2e/2.5e, if only to provide a couple of additional prewritten stat blocks. (Third edition stat blocks will be much easier to generate.)


Yava-Chernya

City Goddess of Damanara

Formerly a Celestial goddess of shepherds and shearing, Yava-Chernya suffered political reversals in the decades that followed the Great Contagion. Thwarted by more ambitious rivals and disgusted by the actions of the hard-liners in the Gods War, she turned her back on her post and abandoned the Heavenly City of Yu-Shan. After a few years spent walking the Northern hills, she decided to settle down—to settle for an island of security in Creation rather than the tumultuous glory of Heaven. That decision made, the rest was easy.

It took Yava-Chernya no time at all to establish herself as the city god of the newly established town of Damanara. The town’s own god, Marema-Brusa, was small and weak; he had little fight in him. But instead of driving him out, she suborned him, taking him on as her right hand. This has been her modus operandi ever since: cajole and persuade, drawing in allies rather than opposing with threats and force. It does not always work, but it has served her well so far.

The goddess and the city have adapted well to one another. Damanara has grown as a mercantile hub, but its heart is in the wool trade. She has become a city goddess, but a city that is tied inextricably to the sheep and goats that flock in the nearby hills. Even the city’s aristocracy is dominated by spinners and weavers—an oddity indeed, yet entirely in line with her nature.

Yava-Chernya does not rule her city, nor does she aim for Damanara to conquer its neighbors. She demonstrates far less ambition than the typical city god. But this comes as no surprise, for she has already dabbled in political advancement and paid the price. Her place in the Heavenly City is lost to her, and she lacks the strength and the connections to win it back. What would she do for an Exalt who could promise her reinstatement in the Celestial Bureaucracy?

Yava-Chernya’s long, curly hair is as white as a lamb’s fleece. Her skin is black as night, her eyes blue as sapphires. All of her garments are woven from her own hair. When she chooses to leave her palace, she does so on the back of a great black ram.

Sanctum: The goddess dwells in the Air-aspected manse called the House of a Thousand Pennants. Her sanctum overlays the manse and resembles it in most respects. It is there she keeps the finest tapestries and garments woven by the artisans of Damanara.

Motivation: To protect the city of Damanara and maintain its social stability.

Attributes: Strength 4, Dexterity 6, Stamina 5; Charisma 5, Manipulation 4, Appearance 5; Perception 6, Intelligence 4, Wits 3

Virtues: Compassion 4, Conviction 3, Temperance 3, Valor 2

Abilities: Athletics 2, Awareness 4, Bureaucracy 6 (Damanara +2), Craft (Earth) 2, Craft (Water) 3 (Dyeing +3), Craft (Wood) 3 (Weaving +3), Dodge 4, Integrity 5, Linguistics 3 (Native: Old Realm; Others: High Realm, Riverspeak, Skytongue), Lore 3 (Damanara +3), Martial Arts 3, Medicine 2, Melee 4, Occult 4 (Thaumaturgy +2), Performance 4, Presence 5, Resistance 4, Ride 2 (Raasay +2), Sail 1 (River Barges +2), Socialize 5, Survival 3

Backgrounds: Allies 3, Artifact 1, Contacts 5, Cult 2, Influence 3, Manse 2, Resources 4, Sanctum 3

Charms:

Banish—Can expel any creature attacking any of Damanara’s citizens or domesticated animals
Dreamscape—Can enter the dreams of those who sleep either out of doors or within her city’s walls
Essence Plethora (x1)
Eye of Inspiration—Awareness, Craft, Survival
Form Reduction Technique—She becomes a sheep or a goat
Hurry Home—Returns to her sanctum
Materialize—Costs 55 motes
Measure the Wind—Scents power on the wind
Plague of Menaces—Biting flies and ticks
Principle of Motion—Seven banked actions
Regalia of Authority—Only affects sheep, goats and the citizens of Damanara
Sense Domain—Perceives the city’s condition
Signet of Authority—Marks her agent with unseen ram’s horns
Spice of Custodial Delectation—Sheep being sheared or cloth being woven
Stoke the Flame—Induces others to follow the herd
Tracking—May trace any citizen or animal native to Damanara or its environs
First (Ability) Excellency—Awareness, Melee, Performance, Presence
Second (Ability) Excellency—Bureaucracy, Craft, Lore, Integrity, Socialize, Survival

Thaumaturgy:

The Art of Alchemy—Adept degree, all Procedures
The Art of Astrology—Adept degree, all Procedures
The Art of Enchantment—Adept degree, all Procedures
The Art of Geomancy—Adept degree, all Procedures
The Art of Husbandry—Adept degree, all Procedures

Join Battle: 7

Attacks:
Punch: Speed 5, Accuracy 10, Damage 4B, Parry DV 6, Rate 3
Kick: Speed 5, Accuracy 9, Damage 7B, Parry DV 4, Rate 2
Clinch: Speed 6, Accuracy 9, Damage 4B (P), Parry DV —, Rate 1
Starmetal Blade Shears (Shivering Edge) Speed 4, Accuracy 14, Damage 8L, Parry DV 6, Rate 2

Soak: 8L/11B (Robes of enchanted wool, 6L/6B)

Health Levels: -0/-1/-1/-1/-1/-1/-2/-2/-2/-2/-4/Incap

Dodge DV: 7    Willpower: 7

Essence: 4    Essence Pool: 85

Other Notes: Yava-Chernya understands and speaks the tongue of mundane sheep and goats. These creatures are scarcely intelligent, but they adore her and insofar as they can understand her instructions they will obey her in all things.


Raasay, the Black Ram

Formerly a little god concerned only with the flocks of sheep in the hills to the southwest, Raasay pledged his service to Yava-Chernya in exchange for the luxuries of city life. He travels to and fro at his mistress’s bidding, roaming the lands around the city and reporting back with what he has seen. His off-time is spent in the House of a Thousand Pennants. There, he dines off golden plates and enjoys having his fleece groomed by the hands of three sacral virgins.

Raasay appears as a black ram the size of a draft horse. The tips of his obsidian horns point upward, and they are very sharp.

Motivation: To serve and protect Yava-Chernya.

Attributes: Strength 6, Dexterity 5, Stamina 6; Charisma 3, Manipulation 1, Appearance 3; Perception 4, Intelligence 2, Wits 4

Virtues: Compassion 2, Conviction 3, Temperance 2, Valor 4

Abilities: Athletics 5, Awareness 4, Dodge 4, Integrity 3 (Loyalty to Yava-Chernya +3), Linguistics 1 (Native: Old Realm; Others: Skytongue), Lore 1 (Damanara +2), Martial Arts 5, Occult 1, Presence 3, Resistance 4, Stealth 2, Survival 5, War 2
Backgrounds: Cult 2

Charms:

Host of Spirits—Creates a flock of identical black rams
Hurry Home—Travel to Yava-Chernya’s side
Intrusion-Sensing Method—Sees through the eyes of sheep or shepherds
Landscape Travel—+1 to all Dexterity rolls for maintaining balance
Materialize—Costs 45 motes
Measure the Wind—Scents power on the wind
Possession—Inhabits sheep or shepherds
Ox-Body Technique (x1)
Principle of Motion—Seven banked actions
Possession—Merges with a shepherd or a Damanaran warrior
Sheathing the Material Form—His fleece bunches up in the path of attacks, protecting against fire and blunt weapons
First (Ability) Excellency—Martial Arts
Second (Ability) Excellency—Athletics, Awareness, Resistance, Survival
Third (Ability) Excellency—Dodge, Integrity

Join Battle: 8

Attacks:
Kick: Speed 5, Accuracy 10, Damage 9B, Parry DV 4, Rate 2
Gore: Speed 6, Accuracy 9, Damage 10L, Parry DV 4, Rate 1

Soak: 10L/16B (Black jade fleece, 7L/10B; Hardness: 5L/5B)

Health Levels: -0/-1/-1/-1/-1/-1/-1/-2/-2/-2/-2/-2/-4/Incap

Dodge DV: 7    Willpower: 7

Essence: 2    Essence Pool: 55

Exalted: Alcoholic Beverages in Creation

Yesterday, I finished the second day of a three-day copy editing temp job. The office has a cappuccino machine. It’s obviously not the best cappuccino I’ve ever had, but I’ve never before been able to have as much cappuccino as I want, whenever I want. I’ve had to make them using decaf to avoid spending the entire day with the jitters.

This has gotten me thinking about beverages in Creation and other fantasy worlds.

One might divvy up beverages (or any foodstuffs, really, but we’ll stick with drinks here) in fantasy settings into the following categories:

  1. Those with unnatural effects, such as Ent-draught or the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, made from unnamed or invented raw materials. These are basically magic potions and are typically used as plot devices.
  2. The merely imaginary, such as Blue Ruin or Slurm. An exotically named mystery beverage can add a touch of the fantastical to a scene. The disadvantage of imaginary drinks is that they lack context; the reader doesn’t actually know what they taste like, and if you spell out the flavor you’re probably describing something similar to a real drink.
  3. Placeholders such as punge (the Archonate‘s version of coffee) or scumble (the Discworld’s take on applejack). These fill in for real drinks when you want your setting to feel alien or otherwise detached from the real world, where you feel that just saying “coffee” will snap your readers out of your imaginary panorama.
  4. Real drinks consumed on Earth, or at least made from real Earth substances. The advantage here is that the reader or player is familiar with the beverages in question, or at least can easily imagine what they’re like.

Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster recipe

“Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol’ Janx Spirit. Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V. Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzene is lost). Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it (in memory of all those happy Hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia). Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odours of the dark Qualactin Zones. Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian suns deep into the heart of the drink. Sprinkle Zamphour. Add an olive. Drink… but very carefully.”

— Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Like most fictional settings, Creation draws primarily from the last category.

Note that our modern world gives us unprecedented access to foodstuffs from the four corners of the globe. Even now, Westerners are learning the flavors of formerly inaccessible foodstuffs like açaí berries. In a fantasy setting, you’ll often have a world or a written-up section of the world that’s based on a particular real-world culture and time period. For such places you’ll want to limit what’s available to its Earthly equivalent.

Creation is a bit different in that it’s a vast setting meant to encompass pretty much everything that a given Storyeller might find interesting from Earth’s history. Moreover, it’s set after the fall of a world-spanning hegemonic culture which had access to every corner of the world—and proceeded to shape new ecologies from the chaos at world’s edge. Thus, foodstuffs and their raw materials need not be limited to specific parts of the world, as the folk of the First Age transplanted such things everywhere they might be capable of growing, much as travelers on Earth have done for millennia (and with increasing effectiveness in recent decades).

That said, instead of saying what people drink here or there, it’s probably better to look at various types of beverage and suggest what parts of the world they are consumed in, and how preparation and consumption might differ from region to region. For today, I’ll stick to alcoholic beverages; this post is long enough as it is and I’d like to get it posted before dinner. (If this post interests you, dear reader, I’ll work up a second post about non-alcoholic drinks at a later time.)

But first, a note on water. While many cultures historically favored various alcoholic beverages for reasons of flavor, health, or tradition, societies that had access to clean water drank more of it than anything else. It’s cheap and easy to obtain, and so it’s drunk to some extent nearly everywhere. But pure water isn’t always easily available in sufficient quantities, and contaminated water can result in all manner of diseases—cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever. This calls for purification methods such as boiling, filtration, or the use of various additives or apparatus. But the most common way to avoid harm from tainted water is to drink some other beverage.

Beer: Historically, beer was critically important to early Bronze Age societies in the Fertile Crescent and the Mediterranean. Thick and heavy to the point that it’s been compared with gruel, it required the use of reeds as drinking straws to get past a heavy layer of floating grain debris. It also spoiled relatively quickly. Such beers likely appear in Near Southern societies. The bitter flavoring in modern beers comes from hops, which is only known to have been put to this purpose for about a millennium. Creation’s beers, like real-world beers predating the use of hops, are likely to use a broader range of roots, leaves, and flowers as flavoring and bittering agents. These most likely appear in the North and East, where you can find societies drawing on a range of medieval European cultural elements.

Wine: Traditionally made in warm climates conducive to viticulture, the real-world history of grape wine in the Mediterranean maps best to the near South, the southern Blessed Isle, and parts of the Scavenger Lands. Wine appellations (geographic designations of wine types, like our modern champagnes and burgundies) can be traced back as far as imperial Rome, so I’d expect the Realm to have a similar system. This includes the possibility of extirpated appellations like the famous Caecuban, such that the last remaining barrels or amphorae are worth a queen’s ransom. Lower-quality wine, to be consumed by the poor and by slaves, was squeezed out through additional pressings. Wine could be flavored with herbs and spices, stored in resinous containers to produce retsina, or sweetened with honey, boiled must, or lead(!). Overall, wines tended to be sweet and strong—often to the point that they were watered down when served—and could be aged for years or even decades.

IK_Drunken_Noah_woodcut_1539

Sake: Likely most common on the Blessed Isle, in the Southwest, and in the Scavenger Lands, where rice production is common and where cultural tropes coincide with those of real-world societies that made and consumed rice wine.

Mead: We normally think of this as a Norse beverage, but while it’s especially important in climates that don’t support grapes, it can be created anywhere that bees can be found, and indeed by semi-nomadic peoples gathering honey from wild hives. Historically it was made and consumed in places from China to Rome, Ethiopia to South Africa. Mead most likely dominates the alcoholic palates of many Northern cultures, some far Eastern tribes, and even the occasional Western island lacking in fruits and grains.

Distilled spirits: Fortified beverages such as whiskey and brandy only go back about a thousand years, but that’s early enough to fit into certain parts of Creation. You can doubtless find shochu in Lookshy, whisky in Whitewall, and coconut arrack in Abalone.

Other alcoholic beverages: There’s a broad range of real-world alcoholic drinks that you won’t find at your corner liquor store. In the West and Southwest, sap from coconut palm flowers is fermented into “palm wine,” its milky hue often reddened by steeped tree bark. The horse-tribes of Marukan ferment mare’s milk to make kumiss, while apothecaries in Nexus steep venomous snakes in rice wine. Lychee wine is drunk in the Imperial City, perry in Chanos, cider in Whitewall, pulque in Ember, chicha in Ixcoatli, and banana beer in Faxai-on-the-Caul.

Monk_sneaking_a_drinkLocal variations: “Beer” and “wine” and “mead” and their ilk are merely broad categories, each of which encompasses an enormous range of variants. Each culture puts its own spin on its beverages with distinctive ingredients and brewing techniques. Think of the differences between ales and lagers, or the innumerable distinct species and terroirs of wine grapes, coffee beans, and tea leaves, or the endless possibilities for adding spices and other flavoring agents, or aging in different sorts of containers. Sometimes the result may be hard to categorize—would the ancient Chinese beverage made from rice, honey, grapes, and hawberry best be described as a beer, mead, or wine? I recommend that interested players and Storytellers perform their own research.

Finally, a quick note on beverage-making and religion. Alcoholic beverages such as beer don’t always turn out as intended due to the interaction with yeasts and other biological agents in the fermentation process; as such, brewing in Creation doubtless involves a range of prayers to ensure that the beverage comes out as intended, without spoilage or unpleasant flavors. As in Mesopotamia or certain medieval European localities, some places will combine the two roles outright by putting priests or monks in charge of brewing.

Ink Monkey Bones #6: Damanara of the Azure Banners

The city of Damanara of the Azure Banners is mentioned in passing in The Compass of Terrestrial Directions, Vol. 5—The North. After fleshing out the city for a game I was running at the time, I began writing it out for publication in the Ink Monkeys blog. The blog closed up shop before I finished, so the writeup remains incomplete. More recently, during Exalted 3e development, I cannibalized the city for setting elements that I incorporated into the Western city-state of Randan. This makes Damanara supernumerary for 3e publication, so I’m presenting it here (minus certain of those cannibalized elements) instead.


Damanara of the Azure Banners

Damanara’s most notable peculiarities—her demon-repelling banners, her cloistered princes, and even her fall to the armies of the Bull of the North—can be laid at the feet of one Anathema who died 200 years ago. And he never even entered the city.

History

Damanara is a new city for a new Age. During the Fair Folk invasion that followed the Contagion, one of the Amber River’s tributaries, the River Maliskancha, shifted in its bed so that the two rivers met several miles south of their previous confluence. This new juncture proved a good spot for businesses serving the river trade. As the town grew, it also became the focal point for the local wool trade—a lucrative industry, given the rich pasturage of the nearby hill country.

Roughly 200 years ago, the Anathema Jochim began his rampage through the satrapies of the North. The Realm’s forces were overextended in dealing with the demon prince and his forces. Jochim himself could not be everywhere, of course, but he had called up demon lieutenants to command his battalions and packs of lesser demons to serve as shock troops.

The city of Damanara lay in the path of his forces. Though rich, it had only a small standing army and no support from the Realm. Even with military backing from such of its neighbors as remained independent, the city would surely fall when Jochim’s troops arrived.

But one of the city’s savants, one gifted in the thaumaturgical arts, concocted a plan. He knew from his studies that the inhabitants of Hell were forbidden to look upon a certain shade of blue—the “sacred azure.” So he prevailed upon the city leaders to seize all the undyed fabric in the city, and the dyers were set to work day and night.

On the day when Damanara’s forces sallied forth to meet the invaders, just before the two lines clashed, the ashigaru unfurled war-banners of the sacred azure, while the archers on the battlements hung vast sheets of blue from the city walls. Some demons reeled in shock; others fled. Most, of course, remained unfazed; but the defenders won the field that day, and mortals are all too eager to credit miracles for their salvation.

Thaumaturges and sorcerers flocked to the city, as did charlatans of all stripes, for Damanara garnered an unearned reputation for sorcery that day. Several of the city guilds—fullers, weavers, dyers, alchemists—leveraged the prestige earned from the victory to win concessions from the city that would make Damanara the heart of the Northern cloth trade. And the city leaders themselves negotiated better terms from the Realm in exchange for not raising a fuss about being abandoned by the Realm to whom they had paid tribute for centuries. The Immaculate Order’s influence was minimized; the people worshiped their old gods openly instead of in secret.

Now, of course, the city has fallen to the Bull of the North, its gates having been opened to his forces by the very priesthoods that gained power in the wake of Jochim’s aggression. Such is the turnabout of history.

Society

Set in a marshy area at the juncture of two rivers, nestled in a valley among rolling hills whose woods are slowly being denuded by mortal industry, Damanara is a rich nexus for the northern wool trade. Sheep and goats live in great numbers here. The city itself is surrounded by a many-towered wall. Its banners are a featureless blue.

Several major guilds control Damanara—these include fullers, weavers, dyers and mercers, as well as some guilds unrelated to the wool trade, such as masons, blacksmiths and thaumaturges. The city’s titular ruler, Princess Dove White Sky, has little real authority.

She is a figurehead for the guilds, whose guildmasters choose a First Master Elect from among their number. The First Master Elect serves as regent to the royal line and holds a great deal of political power.

The city goddess is named Yava-Chernya. She appears as a proud and refined woman who is not quite young anymore, clad in blue robes adorned with lapis and sapphires. She rides a black ram draped with cloth-of-gold in honor of the city’s old coat of arms, a black ram on a golden field. She lives in an Air-aspected manse, the House of a Thousand Pennants, which lies at the heart of the city. The manse’s hearthstone is a Stone of Mending Flaws (Oadenol’s Codex, p. 99).

Other gods worshiped in Damanara include Akana, Matriarch of the Ivory Robe (a regional goddess of winter); Saula-Nieida, the Lady of the Shining Loom (a regional goddess of weaving); and Grand Kinnaku, the Raven Avatar (a god of corvids who has been a friend to mortals since the Time of Glory). Each has its own temple.

Four outcaste households live in Damanara, having been given wealth and respect for their aid against Jochim two centuries ago. Foremost among these households is that of Naviga Baral, who traveled to the Blessed Isle to negotiate new terms for the satrapy after Jochim’s defeat. She still lives here, as do her sons and daughters. Her home, an elegant wooden manor encircled by a hedge of chokecherry, is a one-dot Wood manse that produces a Stone of Healing.

Damanara fell by surprise to the forces of the Bull in the middle of the night last month, when forces affiliated with the city’s temples seized and opened some of the city gates just as Samea brought in half a legion’s worth of icewalkers via Stormwind Rider. The defenders fought well, but the icewalkers were led by Lunar Exalted and backed by powerful beastmen. By morning, the First Master Elect, Ladim Sesla, had ordered the guild troops to stand down, leaving the city in the hands of the Bull.