A Shadow Falls
Exalted MUSH is currently using a fan-written homebrew writeup of the Abyssal Exalted, modified for use on this MUSH. A link to the original can be found in the modified document.
Abyssals: A Shadow Falls
The Black Exaltation
Abyssal Exaltation works remarkably similar to Solar Exaltation, because each Abyssal Exaltation is in fact a cracked, twisted, inverted Solar Exaltation tuned to channel death and darkness. Thus, Abyssal Exaltations choose from amongst the same pool of candidates. However, they differ in a very critical way.
When one is on the verge of death, time slows to a crawl and reality fades. Ancient, wordless voices and mad gibberings offer an unspoken choice: continued existence as an ageless, awe-inspiring champion of death and the grave, or pass up on the glory and join the ranks of the dead. Should the dying subject choose to rise as an Abyssal, then they undertake the Second Breath, miraculously restored to the peak of health and flooded with the dark power needed to hopefully survive or escape whatever trouble they landed in.
Where Loyalties Lie
Unlike in 2e, no Deathlords oversee Abyssal Exaltation, no Monstrance contains the Shards. While Deathlord Necromancy and the mad will of the Neverborn CAN designate desirable candidates for Abyssal Exaltation, only the Exaltation itself - and the dying individual - have real power over the process.
Furthermore, a newly Exalted Abyssal has no innate loyalty or ties to the Deathlords, Neverborn, or the Void. They have sworn service to death and the grave, and are beholden only to the Primacy of Death resounding within their own Essence. Many Abyssals do make their way into the service of Deathlords, the Neverborn, or even the Void itself, but it's their own free will - whether rational, or however mad and twisted - which gets them there. Most Deathlords desire Abyssal champions, but the way they go about obtaining them varies wildly. Some make offers of power, glory, riches, knowledge, whatever the Abyssal might desire, in exchange for service, while others might take harassing, oppositional, or even stranger stances in their mad melodrama. The Deathlords all comprehend that the Abyssal Exalted are powerful and cannot be usefully controlled through brute force alone, they understand that an angry or offended Abyssal may, in the long term, become a thorn in their side. In their delusional madness and love of the drama of it all though, the mad ghost kings can still get carried away.
When using the third anima power (A Shadow Falls p.3-4) a dusk caste abyssal will not become aware of how to fulfill a specific condition for a creature's death or destruction, even as they become aware of what that condition is. To use an example from Second Edition, this ability could discover that Sondok needs to be bathed in the blood of her daughter to die permanently but could not cause the abyssal to learn her daughter's name, current location, or other facts that would aid in meeting that requirement.
Although technically alive, Abyssals are Creatures of Death. Abyssal Exaltation also inflicts Creature of Darkness status, and to date no Abyssal has attained an exemption from this by the Most High.
An Abyssal who takes the Hideous Flaw may appear as a dessicated mummy, an ever-rotting (or even partially skeletal) corpse, or some other form of grotesque dead-thing-that-walks short of a bare skeleton. This Hideousness is only skin-deep and does not affect the Abyssal's biology, short of further mutations from Charms, necromancy, etc.
Apart from Day Castes, Abyssals who eschew the trappings of death respire 2 fewer motes per hour than other Exalts while in lands far from the Death Essence they channel. Shadowlands and the Underworld offer plenty of Deathly Essence, while untainted lands of Creation, the Wyld, and strange other realms like Malfeas do not.
The breath of war mote regen is unaffected by this penalty.
Abyssals are Resonant with Soulsteel. They are Neutral to everything else.
Shadows of Death
Whether an Abyssal embraces, rejects, or finds herself ambivalent toward her nihilistic destiny, she cannot escape the fact that where she walks, death walks with her. All Abyssals are plagued by unnatural and unnerving manifestations of deathly power, caused by the friction between their own necrotic Essence and the world around them. Abyssal scholars and the Deathlords know such as the Shadows of Death, and all Abyssals must pick two effects that they are known by. These two effects happen frequently when in the living world, whether the Abyssal likes it or not. Note that the Shadows of Death are largely cosmetic from a mechanical perspective. On their own, they cannot be used towards any real benefit. They are, however, great material for stunting and tools of intimidation. An Abyssal's player may invoke any Shadow of Death style effect when dramatically appropriate as a stunt, when the Abyssal's emotions are stoked, or as an embellishment to Charms usage, spellcasting, or Anima Flares, though the Abyssal character has no direct control of such.
Some example Shadows of Death include...
- A chill wind sometimes blows around the Abyssal, particularly when she makes an entrance or dramatic statement.
- The Abyssal's eyes glow with an unearthly light when in the grip of strong passions.
- The Abyssal's shadow sometimes becomes monstrous and distorted, or else moves out of sync with her body. Perhaps it menaces surrounding characters.
- Alternatively, the shadows of everyone present stretch towards the Abyssal or bow in the presence of the Deathknight.
- The Abyssal's reflection is that of a rotting corpse.
- Alternatively, mirrors crack and shatter when forced to hold the Abyssal's reflection.
- Holy symbols tarnish or splinter in the Abyssal's presence.
- Small plants wither and die when the Abyssal touches them.
- Crows, ravens, owls, and other birds of ill omen tend to follow the Abyssal and congregate in enormous and intimidating numbers if she stays in one place for a few days.
- The Abyssal smells of formaldehyde, natron, or some other substance used in the preparation of corpses.
- Things sometimes crawl feebly out of the shadows when the Abyssal is present. They vanish if anyone turns to look at them directly.
- Small flames gutter and go out when the Abyssal nears, or else glow in ghostly and unnatural hues.
- Vermin such as rats, flies, worms, or locusts tend to dog the Abyssal's steps, following her wherever she goes.
- Things that really shouldn’t bleed sometimes do when the Abyssal is around (trees, rocks, food, household appliances).
- Animals (apart from scavengers, vermin, or those of ill omen) howl, panic, and flee the Abyssal's presence.
- Nearby edible food spoils or explodes into maggots, water the Abyssal lingers near becomes brackish and stale or freezes over with a thin layer of ice.
- Those sleeping nearby experience horrific nightmares featuring the Abyssal. This doesn't inhibit Willpower regeneration.
Getting by in the Underworld
(Originally from Lanaya's, 'Abyssals: A Shadow Falls' p.213)
Normally the Underworld is a dark and terrifying place full of dangers, and other Exalted must master Survival Charms if they want any hope of living in its wilderness. For the Abyssal Exalted, however, it is home. Even without any Charms, they can innately navigate that dark realm, find food and shelter and live comfortably, just as easily as any of the living could in one of Creation’s more fertile lands.
Every Abyssal has sworn their services to the grave and cast away their mortal names and fates. That the vow was made under the duress of impending doom matters not. This covenant has made them Death's champions, and Death will have its due from them. Though each Abyssal Exaltation was cleansed of the Great Curse and doesn't experience Limit Break as Solars do, each Abyssal Exalt has a 10-point Resonance track which works much like the Limit track of their Solar counterparts, building towards an inevitable eruption of cursed behavior and turmoil, but with some key differences.
- Once per scene, when the character acts against the primacy of death (defined below) in support of an Intimacy towards the living, roll dice inversely proportionate to the strength of the Intimacy. One dice for a Defining, two for a Major, and three for a Minor. Successes become Resonance. The strength of powerful living convictions and emotions proves to be a partial shield against the stagnation of death, though never a perfect one.
- The Abyssal is forbidden from speaking or answering to their now-forsaken original name (and may not adopt a new name; only titles and sobriquets are permissible), save to disavow all claim to it such as "that is no longer my name." Upon breaking this taboo, roll (Essence) and add successes as Resonance.
- The Abyssal must undertake and sincerely pursue at least one Major Task which supports the primacy of death per month. Should this not be met, the Abyssal must roll (Essence + 2) and count successes as Resonance. Success is not required, merely the sincere pursuit.
- An Abyssal Exalted cannot gain Resonance from interactions with their Lunar Mate.
- Any Lunar Charm which benefits their Solar Mate also can benefit an Abyssal. However, Abyssals find it very difficult to develop Charms which recognize their Mate with any importance.
Primacy of Death
Every Abyssal swore to champion the causes of Death and the Underworld, with the result placing the dead above the living. This inevitably furthers the cause of Oblivion and the Neverborn. Over time, even a trickle of sand grains will pile into a mountain. Adherence to the Primacy of Death is not expressed in a strict code of conduct or a set of immutable laws. It is not arbitrated by eldritch abominations or the questionable wisdom of mad ghost-kings. An Abyssal's own bleak and twisted Essence serves as the judge, and it knows when death's power over the living has been further cultivated.
As some examples, an Abyssal supports the Primacy of Death by fostering relations between the living and the dead which favor (however marginally) the dead, such as promoting ancestor worship. Instilling the dread terror of death in onlookers or a willingness to embrace it (ala suicide cults) also furthers death's cause. Slaying the living, especially in a way which humbles the mighty and egotistical (such as Exalts and Gods), is a great service. Acts which strengthen the nations of the dead, such as those who exploit and embrace the bleakness of Shadowlands, furthers the cause.
The chief gauge of what constitutes oppositional behavior is saving the lives of the living WITHOUT styling it in a fashion that promotes the Primacy of Death (for instance, it is permissible to save a village being attacked by bandits, by taking the lives of the bandits, and it is permissible to halt a plague that has claimed at least some victims in the name of ensuring there are survivors left to tend the graves). Many paths of genuine heroism are open to a Deathknight who operates as a Speaker for the Dead.
The Doom of the Abyssal Exalted
When an Abyssal's Resonance reaches 10, they are bound to eventually be overwhelmed by the built-up power of their cursed Exaltation which has been denied its due too long. Unlike Solar Limit Breaks, which are a manifestation of the Great Curse grinding against the character's psyche and would seem to outsiders and even the Solar themself as just bouts of extreme behavior brought on by the stresses of their heroic lives, an Abyssal who is swallowed by a Doom knows he is in the grips of a terrible curse, and any magics which might be capable of diagnosing such affirm it as well.
When their Doom strikes, the Abyssal is overcome with disastrous and extreme otherworldly compulsions. These parallel Solar Limit Breaks in terms of potential disruption and the ensuing regrets, but are the actions of a Creature of Death. The Abyssal experiences the hungers for flesh and blood of the revenant, witnesses the suffering of the world and prescribes merciful death, feels the single-minded and selfish impulses of a heartless zombie or hungry ghost drive them towards a goal while forsaking comradery, is driven to terrify and humble those who seem not to fear death as they should, etc. The Shadows of Death often go on a rampage during these episodes.
The Path to the Light
To date, no Abyssal has managed to purify their dark nature and reclaim their station as a Chosen of the Sun. If such a thing is possible, it would require many life-changing efforts to internalize the nature of Solar Essence and affirm the virtue of life over death. So-called "Redemption" is not a matter of morals, or of good vs evil, but of the manner in which the power is used and reasons. In order for an Abyssal to have even a fraction of a chance at a thing which may or may not be possible, they must essentially learn to be an entirely new person. It is a deeply personal matter and what helps one Abyssal may not help others.