Modern Exalted: Bring back the Light
Fate and Samsara
What is the Loom of Fate?
The Loom of Fate is part of the N/A panoply built by the Primordials that makes Creation what it is, alongside the Elemental Poles, Heavenly Gates, Silver Chair, etc. Before the Primordial War, the Loom was attended to from the surface of Creation by the Maidens, who used the stars in the night sky as markers through which to interpret its distant workings. Nowadays, it is maintained by the pattern spiders and Sidereals, both joint creations of Autochthon and the Maidens. Now, as then, its purpose is to enforce the laws of Fate upon Creation.
What is Fate?
Fate is the software that runs on the hardware of the Loom; the system that keeps Creation working. It serves to defines proper cause-and-effect, ranging from “A precedes B and is not concurrent with C” to “rocks fall down, not up” to “apples do not taste of blue”. It ensures that events which have occurred stay occurred, and oversees the steady passage of time. Each Sidereal employed by the Bureau of Destiny is also obligated to act as a troubleshooter for Fate should their expertise be required, a duty that supersedes Division-specific ones.
What is a destiny? How is it distinguished from Fate?
A destiny is an individual identifying strand on the Loom of Fate. Everything inside Fate has a strand of destiny; every character, every object, every structure, every animal, every plant, even every soul. Since this destiny tracks whatever it represents, finding a specific destiny on the Loom allows the Sidereal to learn the present and past of the strand’s subject, tracking their current position and status to anywhere in Creation.
The only things that lack identifying destinies are individual motes; it is impossible for even an artifact of the Loom’s transcendent processing capacity to track every constituent mote of Creation, thanks in no small part to the infinite energy of the Wyld that lashes on the borders of existence. For this reason, large concentrations of Essence can cause minor errors within the Loom, though all but the most severe of these are near-instantly dealt with by the pattern spiders.
Does Fate predict the future? Can a destiny?
Fate neither predicts nor dictates the future. Fate is impersonal, a bigger concept than any individual. It is essentially Creation’s equivalent to the laws of physics, the force that distinguishes it from the personal and gossamer-fragile reality-bubbles of the Wyld. It is commonly misunderstood by the plebeians (i.e. everyone other than Sidereals and Gods associated with Fate) to be some kind of predictive or deterministic force, and is referred to as such across Creation, in myth and idiom alike. This understanding is true only in the sense that statements “the Sun shines” or “grass grows” is deterministic; “fighting Fate” is essentially a nonsensical idea.
Destinies record the past and track the present of whatever they represent; they cannot divine the future. A character with access to an individual’s destiny can try to predict their future, but only in the same way that they could try to predict the path of a snooker ball after it was struck by the cuestick; by looking at the position and direction of other nearby destinies, as well as the angle and velocity of the original destiny, and calculating its likely path. The Loom provides Sidereals with a colossal amount of data and context for their planning, but it does not provide them with plans on its own.
Of course, that has not stopped the Bureau of Destiny from getting as close to perfect prediction as they can; vast effort has been sunk into worse causes by shady government agencies. Great computing engines of starmetal and punch-card origami populate the Bureau of Destiny, clacking and whistling as they calculate the most likely path of a given destiny based on certain submitted parameters. The smallest of these are portable, palm-sized diptyches backed with a jade image of half-eaten fruits of Creation, while the largest is an ancient and elephantine construct of hundreds of different parts working in unison, including a massive hollow glass foetus, apparently blown into shape in one attempt, home to a small colony of pattern spiders who spend their time moving grains of coloured sand from one part of the machine to the next. One of these machines was briefly operated by a Lunar akuma of the Whispering Flame, but no evidence of infection has yet emerged.
However, even such wonders of artifice are unreliable at best once Essence gets involved. To continue the snooker analogy, the board starts slanting, strange divots and new balls appear out of nowhere, and the shapes of cuestick and ball both change midstrike. Given that anywhere a Sidereal wishes to closely monitor will likely have an abundance of Essence-users (and the fact that Creation is, not to put too fine a point on it, made entirely out of Essence), predicting a given future is rather like predicting the path of a pinball in the most demented machine devised, with only the most cursory control over the flippers. There’s a reason prophecies are generally so vague; for most serious Sidereal work, a destiny is little more than a heavenly tracking device.
How do characters relate to Fate?
There are two main ways that characters relate to Fate; they can be “inside Fate” or “outside Fate”. However, they can also be “beyond Fate”; a term describing those creatures too metaphysically vast for Fate to contain, or “without Fate”; a term describing the mad narrative primacy that existed before the Primordials. All of these states are described in greater detail below.
What is the scope of Fate?
For the most part, the authority of Fate is limited to the borders of Creation and the walled city of Yu-Shan. Without specialised magic, characters and objects who leave for another realm of existence also leave the influence of Fate; their destiny hangs slack, tucked away for safekeeping by the pattern spiders, and they cannot be found on the Loom no matter how a Sidereal searches. For the purposes of Fate, only Pure Chaos is considered a separate realm of existence; even the Deep Wyld is enough a part of Creation for the Loom to touch it (however fleetingly).
This does not mean that to leave Creation is to surrender to meaningless chaos. The Underworld has a definite relationship with cause-and-effect (however sluggish and repetitive), while Malfeas is as bound by causality by the nature of it’s lords. The reason for this is the existence of analogues to Fate, specific to those realms. These are described in greater detail below, in “outside Fate”.
What does it mean to be inside Fate?
To be inside Fate is to be governed by the laws of Creation, your presence within the Loom’s systems indicated by a personal strand of destiny. By default, everything within Creation’s borders is inside Fate. The exceptions are described below, in “outside Fate”, “without Fate”, and “beyond Fate”.
What are the benefits of being inside Fate?
The benefits of being inside Fate are not immediately apparent to most players, simply because they tend to take them for granted. They include not having to knife-fight your future self to death, not suffering constant and heinous mutations, avoiding problems with cats in sealed lead boxes, and not having your food uncook itself (or turn into an anvil) inside your belly.
Of course, Creation is a vast and strange place, such that any of these unfortunate things might happen anyway. Generally, however, they will only do so because you offended the wrong god or thought a weekend trip into the Wyld would be a good idea; being inside Fate ensures that such insanity doesn’t occur as a matter of course.
What are the downsides of being inside Fate?
The downsides of being inside Fate are not a real consideration for the vast majority of Creation’s population, and are similar to the downsides of living within any system. Characters inside Fate can be tracked by Heaven, thanks to their strand of destiny being present on the Loom of Fate; this also allows them to be directly targeted by Astrology. Certain other Charms have altered or greater effects on characters inside Fate; these are mainly found within the Sidereal Charmset, but the Ebon Dragon has the ability to infiltrate the lives of those inside Fate, or inflict Paradox through spite alone, while Isidoros shuns cause-and-effect as unnecessary nitpicking, and can tear the fabric of Fate on his tusks. A few specialized Lunar Charms also exist to meddle with Fate.
What does it mean to be outside Fate?
Despite its apparent simplicity, “outside Fate” does not simply describe those are not governed by Fate. Rather, it describes those who are governed by the Fate-analogue of a foreign realm of existence; characters, objects, structures, etc, that are not in Creation. Characters in the Underworld, Malfeas, or Autochthonia are not inside Fate; nevertheless, they are not suddenly subject to the mad chaos that is a life without Fate. Instead, their interactions with reality are governed by foreign analogues to Fate, as described below.
What are the effects of being outside Fate?
There is little difference between being outside Fate (as opposed to “without Fate”, below) and inside Fate; characters outside Fate are simply subject to a different version of Fate. They are led through similar patterns of cause-and-effect by their respective Fate-analogues, and though they cannot be directly tracked or targeted by Astrology through the Loom, the Sidereals are not impotent outside of Creation; they have ways of monitoring and manipulating the works of foreign weavers.
What are the various Fate-analogues?
There is a different Fate-analogue for each realm of existence not covered by the Loom of Fate.
Malfeas is governed by the swollen self-causality of Primordial existence, strained through the Surrender Oaths to produce an unbiased system of physical laws (though in a world where the geography consists of mad titans and their unquestionable deva, unbiased physical laws mean very little). Where relevant, this Fate-analogue is referred to as Mythos.
The Underworld is governed by the clunking and grinding rotations of the Calendar of Setesh, which produces a stagnant and repetitive Fate-analogue driven by prayers and passions, referred to as Kismet.
All terms for relating to Fate also apply to these Fate-analogues. A mortal who leaves Creation to wander the deserts of Cecelyne is no longer inside Fate; he is outside Fate, and inside Mythos. If he is later flung through the Three-Hinged Gate of the Ivory Musician to land in the Underworld, he is still outside Fate, and now inside Kismet. Once he finds a shadowland and returns to Creation, he is inside Fate once more, and outside both Mythos and Kismet. He is also very, very lucky.
What is Mythos?
In the time of Zen-Mu, before Creation had even been conceived of, a sort of causality existed. It was a slippery, personalized reality, imposed entirely by the whim and proximity of Primordials, but it was there, and it tempered the narrative of the Wyld just the Wyld shaped it with wild throes and crusading raksha. If a Primordial decided that something had occurred, then it had occurred and would remain thus, incorporated into their undying Mythos; this deliberate fossilisation of events was the root cause of much of the Fair Folk’s hatred for them, and contributed greatly to the legend of each titan, as the history of their world-bodies was literally written to the tune of their soul-song.
What is Kismet?
The Underworld is not a place. It is a dream, a waking nightmare carved from Elsewhere by the mental throes of the Neverborn. That human ghosts find this nightmare perfectly inhabitable is simply a testament to the alien nature of Primordials, and the idiocy of human beings. Being a dream given form, time moved oddly in the Underworld, if it did at all. The sad, rusted analogue to the Daystar hung eternally in the sky, marking the exact time of the first Primordial death, while the Silver Chair of Creation flickered into visibility at odd times, seeming to taunt the Mouth of the Void in its irregular orbit.
The Calendar of Setesh was built by its namesake, the Black King of Stygia, to move the Underworld past this dank stasis, powered by the solid grinding of prayers and the insane focus of passions. It hangs from the sky, anchored to it by the thirteen stars that ring the Mouth of the Void, and consists of grinding rings of stone marked by Old Realm symbols carved miles wide, delicate starmetal mechanisms smaller than a fingernail, great jewelled orbs rotating within inverted gyroscopes, and torso-thick brass cables that stretch space to run through the Labyrinth, connecting to the hideous necropoli of the Neverborn.
Each part of the Calendar serves a specific purpose (some of which are entirely unrelated to its primary task), but taken as a whole, this mechanism acts to partially link the Underworld to the Loom of Fate. This keeps the passage of time in the two realms roughly equal, and grants the realm of the dead an uneven causality, called Kismet.
While the Loom of Fate tracks and crystallizes all four of the traditional dimensions (height, depth, width, and time) in perfect sync, the Calendar of Setesh is more limited (in part by necessity). Kismet’s conception of time is stunted, split and attached to the three physical dimensions. Just as in Creation, time progresses onward and events cannot unoccur. Unlike in Creation, however, the progression of time is not uniform, and depends in part upon geography and perception; while it is not possible to travel back in time by retracing one’s steps, pockets of ancient history exist largely unchanged from their entrance into the Underworld, fashions and trends progress at a glacial and circular pace, and there are places where speed of travel depends on age, where only the newest ghosts can travel without moving at a relative crawl. As one enters the Labyrinth, even these rules become meaningless, as the Mythos of the Neverborn asserts itself once more, and the dreadful narrative of those dead Primordials takes precedence over sanity or physical law.
What does it mean to be beyond Fate?
To be beyond Fate is to be too big for the Loom (or any of its analogues) to fully encompass. Such entities do not require an external force of causality; their own existence provides context for each of their actions, drawn from the expectations set by Creation’s universal denominator. Most obviously, this describes the Primordials, whose kilomote legend is writ on the face of the universe. They are beyond Fate, whether they are free and whole, imprisoned and crippled, or dead and dreaming. This also describes the devas of Primordials, their Second and Third Circle Souls. It also describes those who draw directly from Primordial power; this includes Akuma and Deathlords, but also Green Sun Princes and Alchemicals (the Primordial Exalted). A number of behemoths and hekatonkhires exist that are beyond Fate, some of which even predate its existence.
By default, entities beyond Fate exist outside Fate wherever they go; the Loom (or the Calendar, or the Design, or the Mythos of others) does not automatically integrate them. However, they can be brought into Fate by magic specifically designed to do so; the most obvious example is found in Sorcery; spells that summon the devas of imprisoned Primordials into Creation automatically bind them inside Fate. The Infernal versions do not do so, as the Yozis care little for the continued integrity of the Loom. Alchemicals are integrated into the Design of Autochthon upon taking their first (and, technically, second) breath, as part of their construction.
Primordials themselves are a cut above the rest; they cannot be brought into Fate, or any of its analogues, without their express and deliberate consent, as described in (Yozi) Universal Ballad.
All but a few of Gaia’s deva have integrated themselves into Fate, and the Beauteous Pioneer’s own humaniform jouten has permitted Fate to gather about her like a cobweb veil. This is a deliberate courtesy to those who rely on the Loom, however, and not (as the Bureau of Destiny very carefully stresses to new Sidereals) a sign of actual, permanent harmony with the Loom. Should Gaia wish it, she could shuck the touch of Fate as easily as she dismissed the gossamer dreams of the Fair Folk in Time Not.
Granalkin and the other once-devas (at least two more of which are known to remain in Heaven) are solidly anchored inside Fate, too, but this is not a choice on their part. They are gods, now, and have been completely severed from their progenitors (as far as anyone knows). They are no longer beyond Fate.
What are the effects of being beyond Fate?
The effects of being beyond Fate are the same as those of being outside Fate, except that entities beyond Fate are subject to no Fate-analogue. Indeed, Charms that refer to creatures outside Fate also refer to creatures that are beyond Fate (unless otherwise specified). Therefore, the difficulty of applying Astrology to such beings is greatly increased.
There are no downsides to being beyond Fate, except the possibility of inflicting Paradox on those you interact with, which is hardly your problem. Consider it a perk of being related (however distantly) to the architects of the universe.
Note that being beyond Fate allows a character to survive without the causal aegis of Fate determining the consequences each of their actions; it does not allow them to dictate those consequences themselves, and has not since the shinma first looked upon Creation. Primordials do impose certain oddities upon the world around them (as described in [Yozi] Universal Ballad), but this is a product of their own supreme might, not simply a result of being beyond Fate.
What does it mean to be without Fate?
Everything benefits from the aegis of causality, whether it originates in the weaving of the Loom of Fate, the rotations of the Calendar of Setesh, the calculations of the Design of Autochthon, or their own transcendent Mythos. But what of those completely outside Fate, bound to linear time by only the thinnest of unbreakable shinmaic threads?
Unshaped raksha are without Fate. Even after Creation imposed its hateful stranglehold over the narratives of the Wyld, they refused to surrender to its demand for substance. Even now, the Lords of Chaos maintain their shapelessness in defiance of the house that the Primordials built (albeit in greater uniformity with the spread of the rabid Hannya). Even if one of the Unshaped were to smash through the Realm, climb to the peak of Mount Meru, invade Heaven and lay hands on the Loom of Fate itself, the Loom would not be able to bring it within Fate; that task would fall to the directed powers of the Sidereals (or Maidens, if the situation truly became that dire). An Ishvaran would surpass even their scope; they are without Fate, and cannot be brought inside it through any means, even with their consent.
Other characters can also be without Fate. All characters in Pure Chaos are considered to be without Fate, as are shaped raksha with the Charm Mad God Mien, and those unfortunate characters ejected from Fate entirely by Paradox.
What are the effects of being without Fate?
Characters who are without Fate have a broken relationship with causality; their existence is rendered a nightmare without beginning or end. The Unshaped call this nightmare home, and embrace it. Others are not so lucky. In addition to the normal effects of being outside Fate, non-raksha characters without Fate constantly suffer from Wyld Exposure as though they were in Pure Chaos.
Inside Fate: You are governed by the Loom of Fate, and are most likely within Creation, Yu-Shan or the Wyld.
Outside Fate: You are governed by a Fate-analogue, and are most likely within the Underworld (Inside Kismet), Malfeas (Inside Mythos) or Autochthonia (Inside Design).
Beyond Fate: You are able to sustain your own Fate, and are most likely related to a Primordial in some way. Counts as outside Fate except where otherwise noted.
Without Fate: You are governed by nothing, and are most likely an Unshaped or within Pure Chaos. Counts as outside Fate except where otherwise noted.
Loom of Fate: The Celestial system that enforces the physical laws of Creation.
Fate: The physical laws of Creation, as first defined by the Primordials and imposed by the Loom of Fate.
Destiny: A single strand on the Loom, representing any one thing inside Fate.
Pattern Spiders: Automatons that service and maintain the Loom. Their sapience is debated, but only by those who do not work alongside them.
The Calendar of Setesh: The Underworld’s prayer-driven cousin to the Loom of Fate.
Kismet: The Underworld’s analogue to Fate. Oddly stagnant and recursive. Time should not be musty.
- Universal Ballad*: The Charm that maintains each Primordial’s sustained self-causality. Much restricted by the Surrender Oaths.
Mythos: Malfeas’ analogue to Fate, rendered outwardly similar by the Surrender Oaths, but ultimately alien.
Paradox: Glitches in Fate (or its cousins) too big to be easily smoothed over, most often caused by beings hostile to the fabric of causality. Bizarre and horrible consequences follow in its wake.
Stars: Lights set into the dome of the sky, turned on at night. They represent the various notable destinies currently running on the Loom, and were used in times past to monitor it by the Creation-bound Maidens.
Constellations: Large, shaped and permanent clusters of stars, acting as navigational points for Loom-readers and sailors alike.
Astronomy: A type of Thaumaturgy that uses the night sky in its original purpose as a display screen for the Loom, allowing the practitioner to glean minor knowledge from Fate.
Augury: A type of Thaumaturgy that uses the deviations in random events (such as shuffled cards, thrown bones, etc) to glean minor knowledge from Fate. Mechanically, an almost cosmetic variation on Astronomy.
Sidereal Astrology: A type of magic exclusive to the Sidereals and Maidens, allowing them to engage in chicanery with Fate (and, more recently, its cousins).
Astrological Destiny: An artificial destiny added to the Loom, marking some standing order for the physical laws of Creation, ranging from “good luck to everyone in this region” to “make sure this mortal dies naked and upside-down”.
In Creation, Heaven, or the Wyld (up to the Deep Wyld):
Primordial: Beyond Fate, cannot be forced inside
Deva, Infernal, Alchemical, Akuma, Deathlord: Beyond Fate
Unshaped: Without Fate
Ishvaran: Without Fate, cannot be forced inside
Anything else: Inside Fate
In Pure Chaos:
Primordial: Beyond Fate, cannot be forced inside
Deva, Infernal, Alchemical, Akuma, Deathlord: Beyond Fate
Unshaped: Without Fate
Ishvaran: Without Fate, cannot be forced inside
Anything else: Without Fate
In the Underworld:
Primordial: Beyond Fate (Kismet), cannot be forced inside
Deva, Infernal, Alchemical, Akuma, Deathlord: Beyond Fate (Kismet)
Unshaped: Without Fate (Kismet)
Ishvaran: Without Fate (Kismet), cannot be forced inside
Anything else: Inside Kismet
If you are in Malfeas:
Primordial: Beyond Fate (Mythos), cannot be forced inside
Deva, Infernal, Alchemical, Akuma, Deathlord: Beyond Fate (Mythos)
Unshaped: Without Fate (Mythos)
Ishvaran: Without Fate (Mythos), cannot be forced inside
Anything else: Inside Mythos