Exalted: The Great War

It is 1918. The Great War rages on. Millions of men have died across Europe, slaughtered by the tens of thousands by machineguns, mustard gas, and new, horrifically lethal artillery. In the skies over Verdun and the Somme, airplanes joust against each other like knights, occasionally taking the time to strafe the men on the ground like so many ants.

As for the nations fighting this bitter struggle of survival, their futures look invariably grim: Russia burns in the fires of revolution and counter-revolution even as the war still rages. Britannia might rule the waves, but the flower of her youth lies rotting in french and belgian fields. France is battered and staggering, as is Germany, two giants slowly slugging each other into bloody mince. Austria-Hungary fights with its back to the wall, facing Italy and the Ottoman Empire in a deadly three-way match that all three are losing badly.

The entire world screams in the turmoil of war.

But now, mighty champions have risen, to lead their nations to glorious victory. To inspire the people to new heights! To heal the wounded, and defeat evil!

To fight.

To lead!

For Love and Peace!

Welcome to

Mahou Shoujo EXALTED: The Great War.

IAQ/FAQ:

Q: What. The. Hell?

A: Yes. It's exactly what you think it is. Exalted. As Magical Girls. During World War I.

Q: No, seriously…

A: Yep, seriously. It's basically alt-hist, deviating just before the October Revolution in Russia 1917, when the Exalted return, turning things… Interesting. As if they weren't before. Also, they're magical girls. I'll explain that in a bit. QuicksilverFox85 has most graciously allowed me to use and modify her explanation for how Creation turned into Earth for this little project (the original of which can be found here). Many thanks for letting me use it for my own purposes! ^_^ Expect a lot of Rule 63 to show up, too.

Q: Okay… So, how the hell do you plan to hack this so it makes sense?

A: Mechanically, I'll mainly be using the Exalted 2e system, adding in some stuff from nWoD. Guns and firearms in general will be handled by Archery and subject to Archery Charms, since there's already precedent for that in the Exalted system as it is. In addition, there are two other hacks that I'll be including:

Innate armour/transformation-sequence:

In addition to the powers and Charms already available to the various splats, every Exalt now has the ability to spend 5 motes to wrap themselves in Essence, transforming their clothes into armour. This armour has a B/L soak of permanent Essence x2, and a hardness equal to permanent Essence.

Calling:

I'm also introducing a secondary motivation for all characters, namely Calling. An Exalted's Calling is an "extra" driving force for the characters, and works more-or-less identically to existing motivations. The main categories of Calling are Love, Peace, Justice and Hope. Whenever a character uses their powers to pursue their Calling (bringing hope to wounded or demoralized soldiers, making peace between quarreling factions, pursuing justice for the downtrodden, or showing love and compassion even for those who are her enemies), she regains one point of temporary Willpower. There is only one caveat to benefit from the Calling: The action the character takes must be selfless and primarily done to benefit others.

Q: All right. So, what can I play?

A: All splats are potentially open to play (yes, this includes Infernals and Alchemicals). See below for details.

Character Generation

Character generation follow the usual rules from the Exalted 2nd. Edition Core book, as well as the rules found in the various Manuals of Exalted Power with the following exceptions:

  • Transformation Sequences: All characters gain the Transformation Sequence power. Spending 5 motes to wrap themselves in Essence, the character transforms their clothes into armour. This armour has a B/L soak of permanent Essence x2, and a hardness equal to permanent Essence. Activating this power in combat is a Speed 3/-1 action.
  • Calling: Each character has to choose a secondary motivation, known as a Calling. A characters Calling is an "extra" driving force for the characters, and works more-or-less identically to existing motivations. The four main Callings are Love, Peace, Justice and Hope. Whenever a character uses their powers to pursue their Calling (bringing hope to wounded or demoralized soldiers, making peace between quarreling factions, pursuing justice for the downtrodden, or showing love and compassion even for those who are her enemies), she regains one point of temporary Willpower.
  • Restored Lunar Castes: Lunars may choose to play a character of the Waxing and Waning Moon Castes, as found in the Dreams of the First Age supplement. For those who do not have this supplement, the Caste Attributes and Anima powers of these Castes are summarized below:
    • Waxing Moon - Caste Attributes: Charisma, Manipulation, Appearance. Anima Power: By spending 10 motes, a Waxing Moon may illuminate an area of (Essence x 5) yards in diameter, and gain her Essence as extra bashing and lethal soak as well as post-soak damage against creatures of the Wyld.
    • Waning Moon - Caste Attributes: Dexterity, Manipulation, Wits. Anima Power: Spending 10 motes, the Lunar cloaks herself in an illusion that lets her appear to be another person without the need to steal that persons form. She also adds her Essence in dice to any roll to pose as this person. Alternatively, she may use this power to blur her own form, adding her Essence to the difficulty of identifying her by sight.
  • Undone Arcane Fate: The Sidereals have regained their connection to the Loom of Fate (or whatever is now operating in its stead). As such, they no longer suffer from being cut off from the mortal world, or lost to memory… But those Exalted who still have memories and harbour grudges from the Usurpation now remembers exactly what the Sidereals did.
  • Sidereal Astrology Changes: In a further change, to make it more useful and viable for players, Sidereal Astrology will be working according to the rules posted by Kitsunemimi-Maiden on the Freedom Stone boards. These rules can be found here.
  • Liberated Abyssals and Infernals: The Abyssal and Infernal Exalted are in a strange position. They no longer have access to the vast resources of their former masters, but neither do those masters have any great influence over them. For all intents and purposes, these twisted Solars are now free to pursue their own agendas. Note that Abyssals still suffer from Dark Fate when embracing life, and that Infernals are still subject to Torment when they go against their Urges. These events are inherent to their Exaltation, and cannot be changed except by regaining their status as Solars.
  • Stealthy Alchemicals: All Alchemical Exalted get the Integrated Artifact Transmogrifier for free, as well as a Charm slot to house this Charm. Whether the Alchemical opts for having her original, mortal body augmented or build a new one, she still gains all the signs, markings and appearance appropriate for her Caste if the IAT isn't activated.

Guns and Exalted.

Since the game takes place in a WWI setting, guns will figure into the proceedings quite a bit, especially as the Exalted start getting involved and making their own improvements and artifact versions. So, to represent this, I've decided to use the really quite excellent Steelcaster rules made by Telgar, which can be found here.

Using this as a baseline, regular guns have the following statistics as well as the Piercing tag:

Handgun: Speed: 5 | Acc +1 | Damage 6L | Rate 3 | Range 100

Rifle: Speed 5 | Acc +3 | Damage 8L | Rate 2 | Range 200

Shotgun: Speed: 5 | Acc +0 | Damage 10L | Rate 2 | Range 20

Machinegun: Speed: 4 | Acc +3 | Damage 12L | Rate 5 | Range 150

Note that machineguns in the time of the Great War are heavy, cumbersome weapons that are considered to be artillery, and so aren't really portable. Instead, machineguns are emplaced, usually in a fortified position, and used to repel attacks on trenches. The Germans in particular have made deadly use out of machinegun nests. Carrying and firing a machinegun singlehandedly requires at least Strength 4, and reduces the Accuracy bonus to +0.

All guns are used with the Archery ability, and Archery Charms explicitly covers the use of personal firearms.

Backgrounds:

Special mention needs to be made of Backgrounds and how they apply to the Exalted of World War 1. Some backgrounds are no longer available, some have been altered, and yet others have been made more widely available. All backgrounds have been annotated with the relevant book and page number. The following backgrounds have been added, altered and/or limited:

General Backgrounds
  • Artifact - Artifacts are limited to a rating of 3, as the only magical items that survive are either in Cache-eggs Elsewhere, or in museums. All characters use the Core book version of this background. (Exalted Core, p. 111)
  • Arsenal - This background may be acquired by all characters connected to their nation's armed forces, but may only be used to equip troops under her command. (MoEP: DB, p. 105)
  • Command - With the backing of nations, Exalted may call on great reserves of men and material. As such, the Command background is now available to all characters. (MoEP: DB, p. 106)
  • Connections - The Exalted gain influence quickly, and some have already managed to achieve positions of subtle authority (or were already in such positions), influencing their societies in the direction they desire. No character may begin play with more than two dots in this background, however, although more may be bought with experience. (MoEP: DB, p. 107)
  • Cult - Various cults have begun to appear surrounding some Exalted (Such as Our Martyred Lady, Anastasia Romanov, whose death and resurrection led the Russian Orthodox Church to declare her a living saint). As such, the Cult background is available to all characters. (Exalted Core, p. 111)
  • Manse - All manses were destroyed during the Fall of the Second Age following the destruction of the Sword of Creation. Thus, any manses will have to be constructed in-game. However, the character may still buy Demenses, and with modern construction techniques Manse construction will be quite fast (measured in months rather than years). (Exalted Core, p. 113)
  • Mentor - As the Exalted have not been back for more than a year, the Mentor background is unavailable. (Exalted Core, p. 113)
  • Past Life - Every Exalt reborn into the Great War may carry with her memories of earlier ages, whether the First or the Second. This background functions exactly as described in the Manual of Exalted Powers: Infernals, including the risk of being overtaken by the previous personality. (MoEP:I, p. 77)
  • Savant - Being the only ones who have any hope of remembering the First or Second Ages, the Savant background is now available to all characters. (MoEP: S, p. 107)
  • Spies - Good intelligence is vital to any war-effort, and so it's not inconcievable that a character may have gained access to or been recruited by, the spy-network of her nation. This background is potentially available to all characters, but requires Storyteller approval. (MoEP:A, p. 99)
Abyssals

The following backgrounds are no longer available, due to being dependant on the Neverborn/Deathlords:

  • Abyssal Command
  • Liege
  • Underworld Manse
  • Whispers
Alchemicals
  • Artifact - Alchemicals now use the standard Artifact Background form Exalted 2nd Edition, however, they still have access to Autochthonian artifacts of the appropriate rating.
  • Class - The Class background is no longer applicable.
Dragon-Blooded

The following backgrounds are no longer available to Dragon-Blooded characters:

  • Family
  • Reputation
Infernals

With their masters locked away in Malfeas, Green Sun Princes may no longer draw on the following backgrounds:

  • Demonic Familiar
  • Unwoven Coadjutor
Lunars

The backgrounds listed below are no longer available to Lunar characters:

  • Reputation
  • Taboo
  • Tattoo Artifact
Sidereals

The following backgrounds may no longer be taken by Sidereal characters:

  • Acquaintances - As with the Lunar castes, the Sidereals have been restored to their fated place. They no longer suffer from Arcane Fate.
  • Backing - Specifically, Backing from the Bureau of Destiny, or the Gold and Bronze factions.
  • Celestial Manse
  • Salary

A Brief History:

Fall of the Second Age

The Second Age ended in what the few survivors unfortunate enough to remember it would call the Second Primordial War. The Relam, pressed on all sides by rebellious satrapies, resurgent Anathema, and crumbling from within due to the internal conflicts between the Great Houses of the Dragon-Blooded, finally fell into civil war. The Solar Exalted seized this opportunity in different ways, conquering vast nations in the Threshold, even as the Lunars began to truly move openly for the first time since the Usurpation. In the South, the Autochtonians and their Alchemical Champions quickly became embroiled in a string of conflicts, as cautious diplomatic missions and beginning trade upset the local balance of powers. In heaven, the Bronze and Gold factions of Sidereals deadlocked the Bureau of Destiny, with the Independents gnashing their teeth and throwing invectives at both sides.

Thus, all of Creation's potential defenders were taken completely by surprise when a gate into Malfeas opened in the very heat of the Imperial Manse, swallowing the Imperial City and vomiting a massive army of Demons up into the cultural and political heart of the Realm itself. Led by the Infernal Exalted, the forces of the Yozis launched an immediate assault on the stunned Realm.

From this point on, it is hard to keep track of precisely what happened when: The Dragon-blooded, taken by surprise, quickly fell on the defensive against the oncoming Demons. Improbably, even in the midst of a fight for the very survival of Creation itself some Terrestrials still fought one another as much as they fought the invading forces of the Yozis, still maneuvering for the Scarlet Throne. Monks and nuns from the Immaculate Order fell in their thousands, as they strove to help turn the tide.

In the Threshold, a bitter three-way struggle erupted less than two weeks later, as the Deathlords made their move. Capitalizing on the confusion as all eyes were turned to the Blessed Isle, Death Knight agents of the First and Forsaken Lion detonated a Thousand Forged Dragon in the Lap. His army marched through the newly created shadowland, millions of undead soldiers finally unleashed on Creation. The Mask of Winters and Bhodisattva Anointed by Dark Waters likewise launched wars of conquest on their immediate surrounding areas, quickly swelling their ranks with newly made undead soldiers, and the occasional Abyssal convert. In their tombs, the Neverborn stirred in anticipation of Oblivion at last. On the Blessed Isle, Malfeas' jouten stepped through the gate and tasted the air of Creation again for the first time in untold ages.

The Primordials were back… And they were winning.

Exactly what happened next is unclear. However, either through serendipity or a desperate act of the Maidens, House Ledaal allied with both Lookshy, and the Solar Exalted. This sparked a chain-reaction where the other houses scrambled to gain" Anathema" allies of their own. A few turned to the Infernal Exalted, but in the main all the Great Houses joined with the Solars, Lunars, or even Alchemicals in some form or another. The last to join the burgeoning alliance were House Mnemon and House Sesus. Perhaps surprisingly, House Tepet were right behind House Ledaal. Finally, the Sidereals came out of the shadows, at least partly, to aid the now much more unified forces of Creation against the armies of the fallen Primordials. It still wasn't enough. With only half of the Solar Exaltations on the side of Heaven, the forces of the Yozis an the Neverborn ground slowly, but inexorably forward. Even with Autochthons Alchemical Exalted on their side, the Abyssal and Infernal agents of the enemy were simply too powerful.

In a last-ditch attempt to save at least a part of Creation, the greatest and most powerful of the Twilight Caste were empowered by the Sidereals, and given free access to all the accumulated lore of the Sidereal's heavenly libraries. With the Sword of Creation in Yozi hands, their last hope was to find some way of either activating it remotely, or destroy it forever, and hope that the resulting shock would destroy the connection that allowed the fallen Primordials to send their troops into Creation. With the aid of Autochthons Chosen, they succeeded. After months of painstaking research, the Exalted gathered their greatest sorcerers and enacted the most powerful sorcerous ritual seen since the Primordial War; Striking not at the Sword of Creation itself, but at the Essence-flows that surrounded it and fed it, the ritual was designed to snuff the manse out like a candle, then release the vast torrent of Essence once more. The results were explosive beyond their wildest dreams. Unbeknownst to them, they'd tapped into the Games of Divinity to fuel their spell, and the resulting energy changed the shape and face of Creation forever.

The motonic shockwave of the destruction of the Sword of Creation roared through the fabric of Heaven, Creation, the Underworld, and even Malfeas. In heaven, the Maidens looked on in horror as the Loom of Fate twisted in ways even they had thought were impossible. The Games of Divinity, in effect similar to Creation's fetich soul, died, and were reborn. The Reshaping had arrived.

The new shape of Creation

The Reshaping, brought about by the Realm Defense Grid and fueled by the Games of Divinity itself, changed Creation on a fundamental level. Creation folded in on itself, forming into a ball. Large portions of the Elemental Poles of Earth and Fire converged in its center, creating the molten core of metal that resides there today. The other Poles were shattered, spreading their Essence about the new face of Creation, forming some of the more extreme area of modern geography; a large portion of the Wood Pole landed in the area now known as the Amazon Basin, while the Air Pole split in twain, forming the North and South Poles.

Much like how most of the world was forgotten by the actions of She Who Lives in Her Name, this new Creation also created a history for itself, guided in some part by the Games of Divinity. Later mortal generations would be able to trace back the history of the world as they knew it, not knowing of its true age; most of the evidence of the First and Second Ages had either been destroyed or hidden away.

The Wyld was torn asunder in the Reshaping, along with the fae creatures that had called it home. The Hearts of most Raksha were shattered into thousands of pieces; some found hiding places within the earth itself, while others clung to the souls of mortals. Some few retreated behind a wall, into a realm mortals would later call Arcadia. From there, they would occasionally reach into the former Creation to snatch the odd mortal, taking them back through the thorny hedge that now separated the Shaped and Unshaped worlds.

Heaven became a wasteland. Assaulted by Demons and Infernal Exalts, the heavenly city of Yu-Shan was devastated. As if this wasn't bad enough, the flow of ambrosia slowed to a trickle as mortals increasingly turned away from the animist beginnings of the world. Enough power remained, however, for the Incarnae to survive after a fashion. With the Games of Divinity destroyed, the Incarnae have returned to their duties, although they cannot truly reach the world any more. The Bureau of Destiny still operates, the Sun still rises and sets, while Luna guards the comatose body of her lover, Gaia. And even in the new faiths, there were faint echoes of the true origins of the world.

The turmoil of the Reshaping shook the Underworld to its foundations, reducing Stygia to rubble. Just before the city fell, however, the Dual Monarchs removed their masks and had them hidden away, along with the five monstrances; they were content to face the end of their nation as simple ghosts. It is thought that the masks were lost in the Great Maelstroms than have erupted from the Mouth of the Void since Stygia’s fall; however, they could be merely waiting for the proper ghosts to find them. The gates to the Underworld are now shut, but at the last instant before they closed, one final piece of information became known to the Incarnae; the Neverborn are gone, fallen into the Oblivion they so desperately craved as the Creation they helped shape tore itself apart. What became of the Deathlords is unknown, but it's believed they cannibalized each other before finally succumbing to the allure of the Void.

The last, desperate gambit of the Exalted and the Incarnae sealed Malfeas off from Creation to the extent that demons could no longer cross over at all. However, a thin strand of fate still connected the two realms, letting the Yozis influence the dreams and myths of humans, giving rise to all manner of dark gods, as well as legends about malevolent spirits, devils and monsters. Having been defeated a second time did not soothe the rage of the fallen Primordials, however. Instead, they descended further into madness and hate, with two notable exceptions: Adorjan finally came to terms with her fall, and is perhaps the most stable of the Yozis, as well as the closest to what she originally was. These days, she can even feel a distant sort of compassion, as well as regret for how events unfolded. Conversely, the Ebon Dragon is now an utter pariah, having betrayed his own siblings. Twice. Hunting him is the main focus of the inhabitants of Hell, and he is thus forced to be permanently on the move. He has no time for hate or madness. To succumb to either means death.

Current Events - Europe in Flames.

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The Great Powers of Europe

General Overview:

The Great War has ground on for over four years. Millions are dead on all sides, with tens of thousands of soldiers sacrificed for inches of churned, muddy no-man's land. The trenches of Ypres, Somme and Verdun have seen the application of chemical warfare, the ascent of the airplane as a tool of war, and most recently, the unveiling of a strange new weapon on the side of the Entente; Tanks. More important than this, however, are the new soldiers who have joined the fight.

In Flanders, a young girl in golden armour reminiscent of the Valkyries smashes a british tank open. The woods of Alsace Lorraine ring with gunfire and the sound of blade on blade as two women surrounded by fire light up the night, one wearing the grey-on-grey uniform of Germany, the other the powder-blue of France.

At Ypres, a frantic French soldier tries to telegraph to his commanding officer that a pale, willowy lady is leading the dead soldiers of both sides against his position. In Berlin, a top German military officer collapses as a laughing fraulein is enveloped in serpentine shadows, his heart eaten away by vitriol. Strolling through London, a lovely young lass flexes her hand, smiling at the sound of gears and pistons barely audible even to her. Within the General Staff headquarters in Constantinople, a young woman's lips quirk in grim satisfaction as she maps out strategies to break the stalemate against the russians, her red eyes flecked with stars.

And in Russia, two women face off against each other, each supported by vast armies. Anastasia Romanov, the sole member of the royal family yet alive, and Valentina Ilyich Uljanova, known as Lenina. Both claim to fight for the Russian people, and for justice. Their war may well end up tearing Eastern Europe to pieces.

The Exalted have returned. And this war is now their war.

No-one knows where they came from, how or why they woke up, or why the Exaltations seem to exclusively seek out women, this time. But all sides are anxiously recruiting all those they can find within their borders, and giving them the best weapons, the best training, the best support that they can.

Start of the Great War:

The Great War erupted following the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand, by Gavrilo Princip in 1914. Due to the alliance-system carefully and methodically built up during the Golden Age of Diplomacy, Russia was obliged to declare war on Austria-Hungary when the Austro-Hungarians invaded Serbia in retaliation for the death of the Arch-Duke. Subsequently, Germany, France, and Great Britain were also drawn in to the conflict, along with Belgium and the Netherlands (as Germany sought to invade France through the so-called "Belgian corridor") and later Italy (hoping to regain territory previously lost to Austria-Hungary) and the Ottoman Empire (which had designs on Greece and the Russia-controlled Balkans). Now, the war just seems like a thing alive, consuming the entire world.

Stalemate:

After the initial assaults and battles, where German troops mainly got the better of those from Belgium, France and Great Britain, the war soon became bogged down in a bloody stalemate. Trench-warfare became the predominant tactic employed by both sides, as soldiers dug in for protection. With modern advances in artillery and machinegun-emplacements, the defensive seemed to rule supreme, as futile charges by cavalry brutally underscored. On both sides, tens of thousands of soldiers lost their lives in minutes as they attempted to charge well-fortified positions. Soon, the war that everyone had expected to last a few months at most had become a grinding war of attrition.

The trenches themselves became a hell on earth, as soldiers waited for the inevitable order to either assault the enemy, or to repel a charge across no-man's land. As months became years, terrible new weapons were developed and deployed in futile attempts to break the stalemate. Mustard and chlorine gas, lobbed into french and british trenches, caused horrific wounds, leading to the Entente powers to respond in kind. Gas-masks rapidly became standard issue for every soldier, but the early models were unreliable, leading to thousands more dying as they choked on poisonous fumes.

An increasingly bitter public, horrified by the events that their loved ones recounted and seeing the crippled and scarred survivors returning from the front, paradoxically became more determined to win the war, no matter the cost. The belief that if they didn't win, the sacrifices and horrors that the soldiers had endured would have been for nothing, galvanized some parts of society… and infuriated others. More than one veteran turned to radicalism and new ideologies on return from the front: Communism, or the militant belief that nations must conquer their rivals with military force, at any price.

This was the world to which the Exalted returned.

The Return of the Exalted

Not even the Chosen themselves can say what happened to seal them away, much less precipitated their return. Perhaps the Loom of Fate was too strained following the Reshaping, locking the Exaltations away, only to release them again as the weight of broken destinies resulting fom the War became too great to bear. Maybe the Incarnae themselves decided to hold their Chosen back, regarding the First and Second Ages as proof that their champions were inherently flawed, and only now the situation has become dire enough for them to change their mind. Maybe they were caught on the edge of the Void, hovering in stasis until the glut of souls from the Great War let them slip free.

Or perhaps the truth is stranger still.

In any event, shortly before the October Revolution, a Russian woman named Valentina Ilyich Uljanova, a noted Communist agitator and political activist, exploded into golden light at the climax of her speech to a crowd of workers in St. Petersburg. All across the front lines, reports began coming in of strange women, glowing gold or silver, and wielding what could only be described as magic. Some even controlled the elements themselves, calling down lightning and fire, or shrugging off machine-gun salvos as if they were nothing.

At first, these reports were brushed aside, attributed to shell-shock or some new hallucinogenic gas. However, as images and confirmation of the devastation wrought by these strange new players in the war began coming in, all sides scrambled to try and make sense of what was happening, all without alerting the public. Then Lenina led the march on the Tsars Winter Palace, sparking the Bolshevik revolution, and no-one could deny that something was deeply and fundamentally different.

The Present

It is now 1918, and the various Great Powers have had some success in bringing the Exalted into the fold. Some have come willingly, others reluctantly, and yet others are dodging official scrutiny and involvement entirely, preferring to work alone and to their own ends. Russia is divided between two Exalted, each of whom has proclaimed herself the rightful ruler, each with her own fanatic following.

The soldiers in the trenches, who have had the opportunity to witness the power of the Exalted firsthand are torn between elation and abject terror; To have a glorious, golden angel crush machineguns as if they were toys, or parry rifle-shots with a flick of the wrist gives hope to those she leads. On the other hand, facing one of these seemingly unstoppable warriors is an experience of pure, mind-numbing horror, even for veterans of the trenches.

The public are unsure what to think. Are these women divine or demonic? Friend or foe? Will they help win the war, or will they ensure that it drags on for another four years of blood and turmoil? And what does their appearance say about what the future will hold for their nations? For now, reactions are mostly cautious optimism, with the occasional outright cult, such as that which has formed around Marina von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baroness.

And finally… why only women?

To that last question, not even the Exalted themselves know the answer. Yet.

The principal players - Entente:

The Triple Entente was originally formed as a counter-balance to the growing power and influence of Imperial Germany following the Franco-Prussian war, and subsequent aggressive German foreign policy following the dismissal and death of Otto von Bismarck. Worried by the Germany/Austria-Hungary alliance, an uneasy partnership formed between the historic rivals and sometimes bitter enemies Britain, France, and Russia. Guaranteeing the sovereignty of Serbia, Russia was obliged to declare war against Austria-Hungary, when that nation invaded Serbia in retaliation for the death of the Arch-Duke.

As a result, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and the Ottoman Empire were soon drawn into an all-out war that threatens to consume them all. Generals more used to fighting with cavalry-charges and muzzle-loaders, have adapted poorly to the realities imposed on the battlefield by barbed wire, machineguns, and chlorine gas.

Great Britain

Government: Constitutional Monarchy
Head of State: George V

Britain is feeling the effects of the war keenly. U-boats harass her shipping, her soldiers are being slaughtered on the continent, and her generals are cold-bloodedly feeding more men to the slaughter with every passing hour. While the tanks are an enormous advantage, recent events have shown that they are not invulnerable.

Yet, her industry is strong, and her "neutral allies" in Scandinavia are providing her industry with much-needed iron ore, food, and these… "Twilights" as they call themselves, may provide some assistance with inventing new weaponry.

France

Government: Republic
Head of State: Raymond Poincaré

France is a proud nation, with a long history of victory in war against every other nation on the continent. Louis XIV fought everyone and the armies of revolutionary France and later Napoleon conquered the entire continent. That proud history changed with the Franco-Prussian war. Humiliated by the stinging defeat at the hands of Germany, revnachism set in, and a lot of people vowed that "next time will be different". So far, it certainly has been.

Locked in a war of attrition with the industrial might of Germany, only Belgian and British assistance has prevented great loss of territory, which grates on the French high command. France's soldiers are excellent, but her equipment is inferior. Thus, she has eagerly seized the opportunity provided by these strange "Exalted", conscripting them as soon as they can be found.

Russia

Government: Communist/Absolute Monarchy
Head of State: Valentina Ilyich Uljanova, aka Lenina. Contested by Our Martyred Lady, Anastasia Romanov, Tsarina of all the Russias.

Russia is burning. A feudal society in a modern age, the strain suffered by this Great Power eventually turned out to be too great to bear. Losses to the Japanese in 1905 were followed by political assassinations and attempts at revolution, which were followed by harsh crackdowns. The strain of the Great War on the out-dated Russian military, finally turned out to be too much. The tsar was deposed. Then these strange new soldiers appeared, and things got worse.

One of those chosen for the Exaltation was the leader of the Bolshevik wing of the Communist Party. Their October Revolution led to the death of the Tsar and his family… all save Anastasia, who was also Chosen. Now, these two are locked in a struggle for the very future of the country, and Russia may not survive.

Italy

Government: Monarchy
Head of State: Victor Emmanuel II

Originally not a part of the Entente, Italy joined with France and Britain out of a hope that she would recieve former Italian territory from Austria-Hungary at the end of the war. So far, all she has reaped is blood and death. Locked in a stalemate with Austria-Hungary on her northern border, Italy was in a reasonably safe position… or so it would have been if not for Ottoman warships harassing her mechant fleet and the Austrian forces pushing the Italian troops back 60 miles to the Piave river when Russia fell to revolution and civil war.

In desperate straits, Italy fights on for now, but as the conflict keeps escalating, not even the might of the Exalted may be enough to turn the tide in her favour, if she loses the industrialized north.

The principal players - Triple Alliance aka Central Powers

The Triple Alliance did not originally include the Ottoman Empire. Until her betrayal in 1915, Italy was counted as an ally of Germany and Austria-Hungary, the three "New" Great Powers of Europe. Originally, the Alliance was envisioned as a defensive measure only, to prevent Russia or France from declaring war on the new German Empire. However, it quickly became something more, sparking the formation of the Triple Entente in response to what was percieved as a power-grab by Germany in Central Europe. With the outbreak of hostilities, Italy joined the Entente, and was replaced by the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Mehmed V

Strange as it may seem, the Triple Alliance are by and large fighting a defensive war, and until recently were prosecuting it on two fronts. With Russia occupied by internal troubles, and the Exalted returning, however, the Central Powers have now moved their focus almost exclusively westwards.

Germany

Government: Monarchy
Head of State: Wilhelm II

Germany is a weary giant, seemingly locked in a clinch with her mortal enemy France for all time. At the outbreak of war, the German Empire's offensives were barely halted in time, but once they had been, the fighting settled down to a bloody, hellish stalemate. Trapped between Russia to the east, France to the west, and blocked by Great Britain on the seas, Germany has resorted to desperate measures to break the deadlock. Poison gas. U-boats. Combat aeroplanes. Should Germany lose this war, its politicians know full well that the consequences will be dire.

And yet, all is not hopeless. The Exalted brings with them the promise of a new kind of warfare; that of the supersoldier. While reluctant to press women into battle, the situation is now so dire that the High Command feel they have no choice. Germany must win. Or it will be the end of everything that they have achieved since the unification.

Austria-Hungary

Government: Monarchy
Head of State: Karl I

The situation of Europes oldest monarchy, Austria-Hungary, is precarious indeed. The assassination of the royal heir and her subsequent declaration of war led directly to the current conflict, and from the outset she has been virtually surrounded by enemies. To her east is Russia, a Great Power even for all her backwardness. In the Balkans, Greece and Romania have engaged her troops. And to the south-west, Italy dreams of re-taking lost territory. What may be worse, she has been forced into an alliance with her age-old enemy, the Ottoman Empire and the Turks.

The Russian revolution has proved a boon for the beleaguered Karl I; As Russia descends into the horrors of civil war, Austrian troops are pouring into Italy. It's no more than a brief respite however, unless something can be done now to gain a decisive advantage. As such, the return of the Exalted has provided a literally golden opportunity, and Austria-Hungary is doing its utmost to capitalize on it.

Ottoman Empire

Government: Monarchy
Head of State: Mehmed V

Trapped between the forces of Britain to the southwest, and the Greeks, Romanians and Russians to the west, north-west and north-east, the Ottoman Empire is slowly crumbling. The Arabian territories are in revolt, and a disastrous campaign against the russians in the Caucasus has bled the Sultanate white. Internally the Young Turks are growing increasingly demanding in the clamour for reform, criticizing the Sultan openly for the handling of the Armenians, and the early victories against the British in the Levant have come to naught. Most disasterously, even the collapse of Russia has brought no relief to the Sultanate. It appears that the Empire is doomed.

And yet… all hope is not lost. One particular woman, Mehtap Kamile, already influential in the Young Turks, disguised herself as a man to fight for her country. Now, she has become something more, as has several others. In desperation, the Empire is ignoring the better part of 700 years of tradition, elevating these seemingly divinely blessed women to high positions of command and authority in the armed forces. It's a matter of survival.

Current Status Of

Heaven and the Sidereals

Heaven lies in ruins. With the end of the Second Age in the great Reshaping, the Games of Divinity that had spellbound the Incarnae "died", for lack of a better term, and were re-created. Whatever their current form the Games no longer seem to need to be played (and might in fact be impossible to play), and so the Incarnae returned to their duties. They were far too late.

Yu-Shan at the time of the Great War is a ruined, dust-choked wasteland, and has been for all the aeons following the Reshaping. Only the mansions of the Bureau of Destiny, the Maidens, Sol Invictus, and Luna still stand inviolate amid the rubble, along with the now dangerously overgrown garden of the comatose Gaia. Here and there in the remains fo the city, a few gods eke out a precarious existance, small tribes warring over faint trickles of Essence that still make their way into the cisterns and reservoirs that remain intact. The only gods capable of anything resembling the glories and strength of old, are the Incarnae, who are still sustained by the remnants of the Heavenly Bureaucracy and worshipped under many different guises.

The return of the Chosen of the Maidens to the Earth below heralds a possible end to this devastation. As the Viziers once again spin their webs and reclaim their place in the order of things, the gates of Heaven may yet be re-opened. For now, however, the Seers of Heaven are cut off from their patrons, tending to their duties as best they are able, while the Loom of Fate creaks with the strain of returning Exaltations. The greatest challenge awaiting the Sidereals, however, slumber fitfully in the main chamber of the Lotus Dome.

Their names are Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

The Underworld and the Abyssals

The Underworld is closed, its gates shut and barred from the inside. With the passing of the Neverborn, and the fate of the Deathlords uncertain, the true home of the Abyssal Exalted is a mystery. The only thing that can be said for certain, is that none guide the Black Exaltation anymore, leaving the former slaves of the Neverborn in an uncomfortable position; Driven by the urges of long-vanished masters to destroy a Creation that no longer rightly exists, and yet sublimely free of any obligation to fulfill this uncompromising vision.

With their return to the world of the living, the Deathknights have found that the old methods of swathing themselves in shrouds and the trappings of death still work to stave off the toxic Essence of the living. Moreover, the active and fertile imaginations of mortals have given them more such trappings to choose from than ever before. The world is practically overflowing with death, and some among the Abyssals can almost fancy that the ghosts of the slain call to them in supplication.

Whether the Chosen of the Void will re-open the gates of the Underworld or forge new destinies in this new, diminished world, only time will tell.

Malfeas and the Infernals

Like their death-touched cousins, the Infernal Exalted have escaped from cruel, insane masters into terrifying freedom. Also like their cousins, they are still driven by the Urges that their former overlords gave them. However, they are also seemingly forever beyond the grasp of those lords, while still able to call on the power that was bequeathed to them. This poses a problem; Should the re-born Green Sun Princes (well, Princesses, now) seek to free their former lieges, or leave them to slowly rot in their own insanity and hate?

To a newly Exalted Infernal, the world of the Great War is an endless opportunity for sport and dark heroism. for power and influence… But also for failure and treachery, loss and betrayal. The Great Powers do not ask questions about the new players in the Great War yet, but they will. And each of the Yozi-touched must decide for herself how she will respond when that day comes.

Earth and the Solars, Lunars, and Dragon-Blooded

Diminsihed and irrevocably altered by the Reshaping, Creation became Earth. And with their return, the Solars, Lunars and Dragon-Blooded are in many ways back at the very beginning: A massive war rages across the world, and the Exalted must now answer the call to battle. The difference, of course, is that this time they are not standing against the Primordials, but against mortal nations and other Exalted.

On the other hand… The massive hierarchal bureaucracies of mortal governements are as coolly implacable and uncaring as She Who Lives in Her Name ever was, and their intelligence organizations as just as prone to betrayal and double dealing as the Ebon Dragon. Malfeas himself would probably pause at the tyrannical indifference governments and generals show towards the soldiers serving under them, and it's easy to imagine his sister, Cecelyne, sigh in admiration when contemplating the iron-clad rule of law that led to the outbreak of the War.

If the Exalted of Creation are to find a way to victory, they must first deal with entities that are just as vast, strange, and impersonal as their ancient enemies… And that's not taking into account what might happen should the Underworld or Malfeas open! But how? Should they follow the allegiances of their old lives, like Mehtep Kamil, and attempt to lead their nations to supremacy, or should they give themselves over to higher goals, as Lenina has?

The choice is theirs.

Autochthonia and the Alchemicals.

Autochthonia, like Malfeas and the Underworld, is locked away from direct contact with the Earth… supposedly. At the end of the Second Age, with the last desperate stratagem of the Exalted gaining a pyrrhic victory for Creation, Autochthon fled at the last instant, waiting for his Chosen and as many mortal refugees as he could. He then re-established the Seal of Eight Divinities, this time forever. However, he did not leave without first leaving a final gift for his most beloved creations: A new type of Soulgem, laden with some of the most heroic souls that he and his Divine Ministers could find, and connected to a masive Vat-complex hidden in the twisting folds of Elsewhere. Seeded throughout Creation, the gems became part of pendandts, rings, brooches, and other jewelry, waiting for the right time and the right bearer.

Now, as the other Exalted return, so the Alchemicals are re-emerging into the light. When a worthy mortal is found the Soulgem activates, fusing the soul of the mortal with that of the hero contained inside, given the new Exalt all the knowledge she will need. She is then teleported to Elsewhere and given a chioce; She may keep her mortal body, or use it to fuel the Vat-Complex, letting it build a new, improved form. Whatever her choice, the result is the same: She emerges from the vats touched by the divine power of Autochthon, and Exalted to his cause.