The Realm Preview, part 1 [Exalted]

Rose here, with the latest preview from The Realm, courtesy of lead developers Eric Minton and Robert Vance. May I present… Prasad!

The Empire of Prasad

The Jade Road carries countless talents north toward the Blessed Isle, and just as many adventurers, opportunists, and vacationing Dynasts to the south. Those who complete the journey find a nation at the height of ambition and opulence. The Empire of Prasad crusade across the Dreaming Sea, a conquering heir to the Scarlet Dynasty.

The Dreaming Frontier

The coast of the Dreaming Sea teems with kingdoms and empires, each fighting to hold their homes against strange and aggressive fauna, Fair Folk raiders, and each other. Gods and elementals claim earthly territory with impunity. The region varies from one journey to the next: even when national borders aren’t shifting, Wyld storms roll off the sea and alter the coastal terrain. Scavengers find sites not seen since the First Age, if ever, and lose those sites just as suddenly.

Several grand empires rise above the mayfly kingdoms of the Dreaming Sea. In three hundred years, Prasad has expanded from the city-state of Kamthahar to an empire that rivals its older southern neighbors. Dragon Caste charioteers and elephant-riders lead mortal armies across the flatlands, and fire-cannons gird their holdings against invaders. Where the Dragon Caste goes, they bring order. [REDACTED]

Empire of a Thousand Names

The Prasadi people are many and varied, and for each of them there is a place. Prasadi society is regimented, yet fluid, and it demands the best of each new culture it consumes. Overlapping systems of social stratification have created hundreds of subcultures. For each such subculture, Prasadi cities assign enclaves and duties. Enclaves elect their own ruling councils, which in turn answer to the Dragon Caste.

When Kamthahar stood alone, four castes broadly defined its social hierarchy: the God-Blooded Exemplar Caste, rulers and shepherds of souls; the Sage Caste, advisors and designers of society’s greater order; the Caravaner Caste, masters of battle, travel, and trade; and the Corporal Caste, entrusted with unclean tasks, from construction to sewage to assassination. When the Dragon-Blooded conquered Kamthahar, they claimed and renamed the Exemplar Caste, and cemented their spiritual authority through marriage to the God-Blooded. A few God-Blooded still exist within the Dragon Caste, providing insight into spiritual matters.

Kamthahar’s clans persisted with little change as the empire expanded, for they came natural to the formerly-Dynastic Dragon Caste. Prasadi clans compete ruthlessly for prestige and advantageous marriages, and rigorously track their bloodlines. The Dragon Caste consists of two sprawling clans, Burano and Ophris. Mortal members of Clans Burano and Ophris serve as members of the Sage Caste, and receive constant courtship from mortal clans seeking advantageous marriage.

The Empire of Prasad claims a hundred cultures, each with its own jati. A jati is a tribe of people, either subsumed by the empire or broken off from another jati over time. Jatis build reputations for particular skills and virtues, reputations which affect their social standing and even their caste. Some jatis straddle castes, while others may change from one caste to another if their contributions to the empire demand it. When a jati’s place is improved (or worsened), each member is affected, and so each is accountable for the whole. Most members of the Dragon Caste descend from high-caste Realm-born jatis. Once they Exalt, they swear a greater allegiance to their superhuman peers than to any mortal community, though some favoritism is common and expected.

The Indispensable Chef

Some societal duties are too important to leave to members of a single caste, and so are practiced in some form by members of each caste. The Caravaner Caste has its teachers, some Sages learn esoteric arts of self-defense, and every caste needs cooks. Lower castes may not cook for their betters for fear of spiritual contamination, and likewise may not handle or gather ingredients beyond their station.

Corporal citizens subsist mostly on curry, rice, root vegetables, fish, fowl, beer, and “lesser” fruits like breadfruit and coconuts. They pay well for goat meat and superior fruits (like kiwi) prepared by a Caravaner. Many dream of being honored with Dragon Caste delicacies such as chocolate, cherries, tiger meat, and above all, peafowl.

A Vision of Purity

The Pure Way of Prasad is a syncretic religion born from the Immaculate Order’s influence over ancient Kamthahari traditions. Adherents believe in a natural place and order for all, judged and controlled by the Elemental Dragons, but they do not limit the natural hierarchy as Immaculate canon demands. Gods and elementals have their place in the cycle of reincarnation, and greed and hubris can drag them down to mere humanity. According to the Pure Way, two paths to transubstantiation exist: the way of divinity, in which mortals reincarnate into godhood; and the way of royalty, in which mortals reincarnate as spiritually-advanced humans, such as God-Blooded or Dragon-Blooded.

Monks of the Pure Way proselytize, train, and enforce the social order as zealously as their Immaculate cousins. They do not guard mortal worship as strictly, but they quickly strike down spirits who extort worship or mislead the mortal flock. God-Blooded and Exigents easily find a place in the Pure monkhood. A dozen or so Immaculate monks journey to Prasad each year to prove the hypocrisy of the Pure Way, by debate or by duel. By request of the rani-satrap, most Immaculate monks visit only for a season. A few stay, wishing to become Pure. A few others stay in secret, developing underground cults to disrupt Prasad’s heresy.

The central temple of the Pure Way is the Most Pristine Sanctuary of the Spirit, in the heart of Kamthahar. Their recruitment and training practices closely align with the wisdom of the Immaculate Order, though many of their instructors are gods or elementals capable of sharing particular insight into the Essence of Creation. A week’s ride from Kamthahar, a valley conceals the Inner Crucible Monastery. Here the Wyld Hunt houses its forces, and here it returns when the hunt is complete. Sometimes it returns with captives: tainted souls, Wyld mutants, Anathema, and even inhuman monsters such as demons and Fair Folk may surrender to the shikari and seek the wisdom of the Pure Way. Through hard work, obedience, and purifying rituals, unclean creatures seek a cleaner death, and a place in the cycle of reincarnation.

The Winding Road to Enlightenment

Prasadi society discourages isolation and encourages insularity. Even in tight-packed cities, caravans, and military camps, citizens mostly interact with and marry within their own caste and jati. Prasadi often believe that they will reincarnate among their peers and loved ones repeatedly, perfecting familial bonds across lifetimes. Paragons of enlightenment are mourned for the certainty that they have left for a superior incarnation.

Though the Dragon Caste commands members of every caste, common beliefs still center around within-caste relationships. Many Kinships swear loyalty across lifetimes, and launch quests to find young Exalts worthy of claiming reincarnation from a lost Oathsibling. Legendary Dragon-Blooded leave bequests to their reincarnations, prompting great competitions to prove that the fallen hero has returned to resume her destiny.

Twin Dragons Circling

Once, Kamthahar was a lone city-state and rebellious satrapy, and Burano and Ophris were [REDACTED] seeking to elevate their names. They were rivals with opposite temperaments, chosen for the task because the Empress expected each to undercut the other. Yet in Kamthahar the two houses found victory, camaraderie, and opportunity that they would never find on the Blessed Isle. They embraced their differences, and claimed the satrapy together.

Clan Burano hews closely to traditions inherited in centuries past from both the Scarlet Empress and the old Exemplar Caste. They work tirelessly to create a more perfect empire, and make countless adjustments to social planning so that Prasad’s many cultures can work in harmony. It was Burano that first saw the promise of the budding syncretic cult that would become the Pure Way, and propped up its order to lend legitimacy to the Dragon-Blooded. In peace, they are contemplative and aloof. In battle, Burano knights are impossible to miss, clad in heavy armor, with siege weapons trailing behind them.

Clan Ophris forever seeks new pleasures and adventures, evolving along with the changing landscape of the Dreaming Sea. They are performers and demagogues, ready to take chances and clever enough to tilt the odds in their favor. In the aftermath of the conquest of Kamthahar, Ophris dared to negotiate with the Scarlet Empress for the city’s future, and secured her mercy for only a century of doubled tribute. Sensual and hedonistic, members of Clan Ophris delight in finding new frontiers to explore and new enemies to duel with words and weapons.

The two halves of the Dragon Caste compete in many things, but they are true partners in the expansion of their empire. They practice a system of imperial inheritance known as tanistry: while a member of one clan rules as rani- or raja-satrap, the ruler’s heir is elected from the other clan. Every member of the Dragon Caste, all across the empire, has the right to a vote, as long as all votes are tallied by the final night of Calibration on an election year. Once an heir is elected, she retains the position until the current ruler either dies or demands a new election. Unless the heir dies, the rani-satrap can only call for a new election every five years. Repeated elections can bankrupt an heir through campaigning costs, but risk outraging her clan.

The Shining Coast

For most of Creation, Prasad’s claim to fame lies in the so-called Jade Road, a trade route painstakingly mapped out by Dynastic explorers early in the reign of the Scarlet Empress. Desert-weary travelers and escaped slaves of the Fair Folk spoke of mountains made of multicolored jade in the distant southeast. Though no Jade Mountain has ever been found, the young Realm’s explorers did find quarries filled with great veins of multihued jade. The city of Kamthahar had claimed many of these fruitful quarries, and they quickly bent knee to the distant Empress for the promise of Imperial garrisons to protect their lands. The Immaculate Order was an unwelcome addition to the arrangement, but the Kamthahari had assumed they would be no more than a nuisance. Heavy religious suppression, backed by the very Realm garrisons that Kamthahar had desired, brought about rebellion and a more lasting conquest.

Today, Kamthahar provides more raw jade to the Blessed Isle than any other two satrapies. Imperial Tax Assessors assume that it could provide much more, for Kamthahar is now the capital of an empire that stretches hundreds of abundant miles. The Empress only increased Prasad’s expected tribute incrementally, for the journey would have been a waste of her legions and a temptation for any Great House she sent. In her absence, many Dynasts who have visited Prasad and seen its wealth find intolerable that so much jade should be wasted on a mere satrapy, however grand.

Jade is far from the only commodity available through trade with Prasad. Uncanny creatures run wild across the plains beyond the Dreaming Sea, many carrying some mix of divine blood and Wyld influence. Massive sea creatures circle in the Dreaming depths, overflowing with oils treasured for occult perfumes. Scavengers have found medicinal herbs that were thought lost in the Second Age, relegated to historical accounts of their wondrous effects. Strange manses and artifacts await the fortunate or skilled explorer, many of them alien-seeming—evidence of Wyld taint, perhaps, or wonders that predate any age of humankind.

The Sea Primeval

According to ancient Kamthahari myth, the Dreaming Sea was strange and wondrous long before the Fair Folk invaded and twisted vast stretches of seascape. Sages debate whether the Dreaming Sea was the birthplace of humans, or of elementals, or of all natural life, but most agree that it is a sacred, lifegiving font. This myth serves as one of the driving forces behind Prasad’s expansion, for the faithful cannot allow the region’s backward, debased empires to foul the Dreaming Sea’s waters unchallenged.

Jewels on the Diadem

The Empire of Prasad stretches from the deserts west of Kamthahar to the tip of the Dreaming Sea, and it’s still expanding. Each territory adds to Prasad’s glory, and contributes its skills and culture to the whole as a new jati. [REDACTED]

Auk’s Roost has been held by several regional powers over the two centuries since its founding on the ruins of another coastal city. Prasad’s in-depth social control is proving difficult to apply to locals used to weathering one conquerer while waiting for the next, but Auk’s Roost is one of Prasad’s rare coastal holdings, and the empire will not surrender it easily. Nearby lumber mills work feverishly so the empire can establish a naval presence.

The small city of Reverie began as a campsite around a monument to some forgotten god, then grew in concert with the monument’s legend. Those who enter its great doorways and sleep beneath its towering minarets dream of those they love the most, and these dreams always carry the ring of truth. Reverie has a reputation for hospitality and relaxation. Spirits view Reverie with respect, and visit its ancient monument to negotiate with each other, or with stranger creatures.

The bluntly-named Rockship is an industrious city known for its mining and metalwork. It’s built around and within its namesake, an enormous, many-masted ship. The dreadnought is partially buried in the earth, made of an imperishable ochre stone, and far from the sea. The Dragon Caste has stepped up excavation efforts, for if the Rockship actually floats it will dwarf any vessel of the Fair Folk or the Gigantes of Dis.

Screeward was built on a mountainside by several fractious clans of goatfolk. They fought against the empire bravely, then accepted their new rulers quickly. The Screeward jati now serves across the empire as hardy members of the Caravaner and Corporal castes. As many humans now live in Screeward as goatfolk, with rope-and-pulley elevators for citizens incapable of climbing sheer rock faces. Screeward’s patron deity serves as an honored advisor when Dragon Caste generals must deal with challenging or unnatural terrain, or when lovers navigate complicated romantic tangles.

8 thoughts on “The Realm Preview, part 1 [Exalted]”

  1. Very cool preview. Prasad was a fairly unique satrapy of the Realm straight out the corebook, and it looks like it’s going to be a very rich location as detailed in The Realm.

    Some of these details are really interesting, like the suggestion that creatures like demons and fair folk captured by their wyld hunts can opt into their system of belief and work for it!

  2. one of the things I liked about CtL 1st was that it was pretty straight forward in terms of how the powers were displayed. and while I’m not saying what I’m seeing here is bad in any capacity (I don’t know in context if it’s good or bad) I can say it’s a little more complicated, and thus I”d worried that I’ll be frustrated. (Changeling the Dreaming was frustrating in this respect)


Leave a Comment