Conversation On The Unconquered Sun

hatewheel wrote:

I assert that the Unconquered Sun does not have the power to list any being as a Creature of Darkness. And yet his is the greatest, if not the only, opinion which matters. Why do you think that is?

Nephilpal wrote:

He absolutely has that power. I gave it to him. He just has to suppress Virtue to do so capriciously.

hatewheel wrote:

If your power is chained you do not have it.

Nephilpal wrote:

If that were so, a good many of the Charms I've written aren't actually powers.

Power is always chained in the setting. That's part of what makes the setting so exciting— all the hard choices. At what point is the price too high?

hatewheel wrote:

This probably just comes down to a simple disagreement with how you defined that particular aspect of the UCS. But if he cannot act unjustly, then he cannot name any being he wants a COD. That particular sentence requires a precedent that makes it possible.

Nephilpal wrote:

Not following. The Sun absolutely can act unjustly. There are (grave) consequences for doing so, but he can. And he has. He's suppressed Virtues to act unjustly many times and even set up a situation so that he won't have to deal with the mental strain of his addiction-fueled injustice.

What are you saying here?

hatewheel wrote:

It is a departure from the Unconquered Sun as I understand the character.

Illushia wrote:

I would contend that fundamentally the difference between 'can't' and 'won't' is absolutely the single most important part of powers in Exalted. A character who -can't- do something will never be presented the choice to do so, or will never be capable of doing so when presented an opportunity where they would. A character who -won't- do something can be lured towards doing that thing, potentially forcing that individual to choose whether they value what they stand for more than what that action would mean or not. The Unconquered Sun wouldn't declare anyone and everyone a Creature of Darkness for no reason, but he certainly could, and could potentially be tricked into declaring a genuinely righteous individual a CoD or removing the label from an absolute monster. Such is within his power, if not his desire to use that power.

hatewheel wrote:

I agree with you, and it all sounds good, but on closer examination I find the condition to be rendered unconditional. He can do it to anyone, but he won't, because if he did, he wouldn't be what he is, and he can never not be what he is, ergo he can't?

Nephilpal wrote:

He can do it to anyone at any time. The power is not limited. In order to bring himself to use it inappropriately, he must suppress Virtue. This doesn't make him any less of what he is. It does mean he forfeits certain powers for a time to do this, but part of the sun's nature is that he is so awesome he can defy his own precepts to exert free will. He is explicitly designed to be what he isn't as part of his capacity to be more awesome than you. It's his right. He's the king.

hatewheel wrote:

You created a value of which I am very fond, but you seem to be telling me it isn't real or valid. In essence, the story I thought this was telling, or modeling, is that he loses his invulnerabity or "perfection" (allegory modeled by your mechanics) by acting a certain way (allegory modelled by deviating from what the Unconquered Sun should do to remain the Unconquered Sun), and he loses the benefit of his "perfection." To me, that has always said he ceases to be the Unconquered Sun when he deviates from the character of the Unconquered Sun. He cannot do that (in theory), but if he couldn't, neither would he be really perfect. So he can be imperfect. And it takes him away from himself. I'm not sorry if I read too deeply on account of your incredible skill for making mechanics into a story.

Nothing in my analysis has served to convince me that I am wrong.

Nephilpal wrote:

He can absolutely declare any being an enemy of Creation. He could suppress Temperance and declare everything living a creature of darkness if he wanted with a snap of his fingers. He has that power.

But he also has superhuman restraint, and just as importantly, knows that failing to apply that restraint forfeits his invulnerability. This gives him a strong reason to only apply CoD to actual enemies of the world and not people he dislikes. He is quite capable of looking at you, suppressing compassion and vaporizing you for annoying him without ever dropping his shield. He can do this and it's in character because he has the free will to decide any particular situation merits a less ethical path to accomplishing his goal.

He can be arbitrary. He can be deliberate. He tends to be the latter more than the former, but you have no guarantee that he won't suppress the Virtue you are set to prey on because he decided to. His free will means you have no idea which insane extremism he'll evince at any given moment.

This, too, is all about metaphor and narrative. The sun is a metaphor for the best and worst of humanity through the lens of ideological zealotry. The sun's narrative is to be a congeries of the irreconcilable, a living paradox of contradictions that highlights the ethical conundrums all Exalted face with regard to the application of power and the meaning of perfection.

hatewheel wrote:

I am absolutely not arguing with this, because I don't disagree or deviate from it one iota. What I am telling you is what it means to me on analysis, or basically, the meaning behind it when set to narrative. Which you seem to think is wrong. That puzzles me. Especially since we both arrived at largely the same idea of how the UCS should be independent of one another. I feel that the Unconquered Sun is a number of internal checks and balances, gives and takes. What your design always said to me is that he is capable of all this very wonderful contradiction. I always felt that it was very important that that be a dominant feature, allowing him to be a dick, or to be unjust, otherwise he would not be perfecta perfect being should be capable of imperfection. But more importantly, this takes him further away from himself. Essentially, the Unconquered Sun is following an idea that is also the Unconquered Sun, the being following the idea he represents, and he is also the idea. It makes him metaphysically layered, deep, and very rich to contemplate.

I think that, were I to play a Solar warrior who wished for nothing more than a battle to end all battles with the Unconquered Sun, one on one, I would be sorely disappointed, because the Unconquered Sun is a value, an idea, that is rendered largely imaginary by the fact of what he is. This means that the Unconquered Sun is the embodiment of an idea
an idea powerful enough to form the basis of the Solar Exalted—but still an idea, and therefore incapable of stealing away the setting from the Exalted and making this the Unconquered Sun show.

Nephilpal wrote:

His Virtue-based powers are representative of his cosmic might being rooted in his personality. When he suppresses Virtues, he lessens himself by forfeiting those powers. He remains himself, but weakened, because he is betraying his own narrative. What is important to understand is that he can and does betray his own narrative, because in addition to standing in as the exemplar of Virtue and thereby demonstrating the good and ill of such extremism, his Willpower is equally perfect and enables him to override any elements of his personality at any moment, provided he is willing to pay the price.

His high Virtue ratings predispose him to not being capricious. This is by design. But high Virtues certainly don't prevent him from making the conscious decision to say "I know what the right thing is to do. But I don't want to do that. I want to do this instead."

This is what makes his narrative relevant to the Exalted, who also have the privilege of choosing to do the wrong thing and abuse their power even when they know full well what the moral choice would be. It says something very powerful about Exalted that Willpower trumps Virtue. It says free will is more powerful and more important than ethics. This is embedded in the relative ease with which Willpower spending blocks natural mental influence. Preservation of free will is more important than the power to convince others within the system. Free will lets you save the world. Or damn it. And either way, it's your fault. No one made you do it. Not your Virtues. Not your enemies. Not those damn Sidereals and their tricksy plots. No. You did this. And you have to live with the consequences.

hatewheel wrote:

Keep in mind that this is not an indictment of your plan, but a tacit approval*: were I the ultimate Solar warrior who dreams of defeating the Unconquered Sun in battle, this would be absolutely impossible by your design. I could not be satisfied with defeating the Unconquered Sun because what I have to settle for is an Ignis Divine whom I have first crippled before I can have a hope of winning. Alternately, he is inassailable and there is no fight. This renders the Unconquered Sun largely imaginary and impossible. There isn't a value of him which I can engage by sword and which is also true.

*[Edit], at least as far as approving the pattern, or the story it attempts to tell. I really don't like that the Unconquered Sun has been rendered inaccessible this way.

Nephilpal wrote:

You can't possibly ever beat the Sun when he's at full power. I consider that a feature, not a bug. It makes him Unconquered. It makes him an ultimate weapon. It makes him God.

The ultimate defeat of the sun is forcing him into a situation where you trapped the Sun with his own Virtue. It's a social battle, but it's also a question of moving the pieces into place to set up the moral quandary. That's not so easy, or it shouldn't be. Moreover, you then have to arrange to do all this in his presence when he knows full well that certain behavior weakens him, so he'll be on guard. This makes the challenge a case of the Exalted actually achieving the impossible. To beat the Sun, you make him betray himself. You break him before he dies, so that in his last moment, he realizes his final legacy is acting like his maker. You kill his dignity. Then you kill God.

Does this rob the Solar beatstick of a grand duel with the sun? Perhaps so, in that physical force will never prevail. But even without using social combat, nothing stops you from talking during the fight and revealing something that breaks the sun. Think back to the final confrontation between Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan. The latter was God. The former could not beat him. But he did. He whipped out a horrid truth and all the fight went out of Dr. Manhattan. That's the moment you deliver the finishing blow. It's still an epic duel, and it'll take a powerful warrior to last long enough to deliver the monologue.

I acknowledge that the Sun's default writeup denies players a chance to have a straight up boss fight like Luna. For those who want that, I should probably whip up some optional secondary defenses that beef him up beneath the shield to Luna levels of horror. However, I think that from the standpoint of metaphor and narrative, it is a stronger narrative to use the Sun as a metaphor for the Exalted as a whole and the fact that all the power in ther universe can't stop you from dooming yourself if you do the wrong thing. This is the saga of the Primordials, overthrown for their tyranny. Likewise the Solars. And in the modern day, the Realm creaks under the weight of its iniquity. You don't defeat the mighty with blows. You provide them with an opportunity to destroy themselves, trusting that Creation is a bleak enough universe that it's only a matter of time. There's always an ending.

It is significant that violence alone isn't the solution to the Neverborn. It is significant that violence alone isn't the answer to beating the Sun. It is significant to say "You must defeat this avatar of narrative with narrative." It is significant that the idea of the Unconquered Sun is bigger than the god himself, so that a Zenith could slay him for failing to live up to his own ideals and still be 100% faithful to his worship of the Sun as a metaphor.

hatewheel wrote:

Basically, I feel if my Solar can never feel comfortable or complete if he has to sucker punch with a non-combat tactic in order to win, the Unconquered Sun has been rendered, in effect, exactly what you say. But it also makes him imaginary. In order to fight "him," he cannot be "him." I want to brawl with the Unconquered Sun the whole universe agrees is perfect and flawless, and I cannot. This may make me seem like an oddity to you, but that renders the Unconquered Sun imaginary by my analysis. He doesn't exist but for a combatant to bring him down to their level…where he has lost something, and become incomplete. I, the Solar who lives by the might of martial skill, could never be satisfied with such a situation. I basically think of you as a genius for being able to create this depth of dialogue, but I also don't like the result very much. I also don't think my analysis of the Unconquered Sun is incorrect. This is how it speaks to me, this is what it's saying. (gestures at entire previous argument)

Sure he can do anything. Except he can't. And the more he does the less he is.

Nephilpal wrote:

You absolutely can. You'll lose. But you can. My guess, however, is that you wanted to win. And you aren't the only one who wanted a less esoteric armageddon.

To say he is imaginary, though, that seems a strange word to use. He is very real. If you get his angry attention and you haven't set up your victory, you're screwed in an immediately real sense. Moreover, you can interact with the sun-as-paragon to use him as a mentor or try to sway him to action or get him to bless you and curse enemies. His power is real. He is real. You can say that he's imaginary because you will only fight him if you can bring him down, but you might not have that luxury if someone brings his wrath upon you. That's real enough. It's real when everything you throw at him is an exercise in futility, when he schools you in the meaning of perfect. Saying he's imaginary misses the immense power he can exercise within the setting in a host of venues.

I still don't get the "Except he can't." I'm telling you very plainly that the rules are clear. He can do anything. It costs exactly one Willpower per conflicting Virtue per scene. His player — probably the ST — can choose for him to do this at any point, even situations that are out of character for him. He has reasons not to behave inappropriately — good reasons. I have good reasons not to use my martial arts training to cave someone's skull in like an overripe melon. But I can. And because I can, that potential has power. It means something. In my case, the fact that I can maim people means I am not allowed to play backyard fight club. My friends know I will hurt them, because I don't know how to fight without hurting people. My style is all about maximum force as a shock-and-awe deterrent. Break your opponent's will to fight. Then break them in that moment of hesitation. There's also the whole "I'd go to jail" thing, not to mention the "I don't actually want to kill anyone if I don't have to" part of me.

I also know, plainly, that if someone hurt my daughter, I might set aside all the good reasons to do something I would probably regret later. Free will! It's enough rope to swing across to safety or hang yourself. How exactly is the Sun "except he can't?"

hatewheel wrote:

I am not trying to be obtuse or dense, so I hope it doesn't irritate you. I believe in what you're saying, and yet, if you were to cave in someone's head like a ripe melon at random, would you still be Michael Goodwin? Or is it merely that the definition of Michael Goodwin has changed?

It's different for the Unconquered Sun though. If he acts apart from the values which embody the Unconquered Sun, he is not the Unconquered Sun. If acting significantly apart from his perfect, flawless, and invulnerable power causes him to cease being those things, those attributes which are incapable of being divorced by the Unconquered Sun, then while he is behaving "in those ways" he is not the Unconquered Sun, and a bigger deviation would make him even less so. In my mind, this makes him a contradiction, incapable of many things without cause, and cause is what creates movement.

This sort of renders him imaginary, whether by disbursement of the Solar Exalted making the Unconquered Sun's definition no longer cogent, possible, plausible, or available. But ideally, he is a prop, a value. He is not there to take the limelight away from the Exalted, to go down and kill all the Infernals and Abyssals, smite the Deathlords, stop the Yozi invasion, etc. He is offscreen. He is lending a value, an idea, to create the bar for Solars to strive for. But he is not real.

So what happens when a Solar encounters a value that isn't real, which by their existence (and the first sentence in this post demonstrates the idea) is rendered indecipherable? Of course, it was always the right choice to make him playable, and that is always what I wanted to do with him in Glories from the outset. Being playable means being relevant, and yet the Unconquered Sun, by the default state of things, is irrelevant. We could say this is because of things like the geas, the Games of Divnity, or he is simply apathetic and pouting, but I know why such limitations have been imposed on the illimitible, I know the metaphor that's modeling. To wit, he is a value of impossible perfection that never makes it into the game. It is just the first and most basic contradiction about his nature. It creates an impossible/imaginary value as a basis for the Solars, without making that value prominent. Rather I think his relevancy is modeled by what players can justify doing with him, rather than him doing whatever he wants just because he can. I don't think he can without becoming something he isn't, because his actions determine what he is, and any deviation removes him from himself. I feel this creates a brilliant way of both expressing his impossibility, and making him compatible with the setting.

But I also feel that any actions he takes which he cannot take are not actions taken by the Unconquered Sun, modeled by a removal of his power (aka, his definitive traits, the traits which make him the UCS) for doing so. AKA, I can't fight the Unconquered Sun, because the law of the setting is that I should be able to have a chance to beat the real, true UCS in a fight, but there is no real true fight with the UCS, there is only a fight with the UCS who has been rendered "not" the UCS.

I'm going to go offline now before I give everybody brain cramps.

Nephilpal wrote:

Yes. The capacity for violence exists in me. I've hurt people. I may again. That's part of me, just as the ethics and societal pressures and all the other factors together are part of me. I am the sum of everything I can do, bad and good and all the murk in between. I am me and I don't change in any definitional way for not living up to others' conception of me.

Some spirits have behaviors so central to their nature that they can't deny the urge and treat efforts to make them do so as unacceptable orders. Some spirits are limited, defined by their unwavering position on an issue. It is significant that the Sun doesn't work that way. He could have. It would have been easy enough to make him unable to suppress his Virtues so that he always applied as much Virtue as he could to all situations as an ethical robot.

But I didn't do that.

And this is where your argument breaks down. If being the Unconquered Sun was tied up in fulfilling those Virtues always, of being the perfected ideal, then this would be how he would work. And in that mode, he would still be playable and usable, but would also not be a person.

What the Unconquered Sun can be at his best is an ideal, and one that could be reference. He's also an imperfect vessel of that idea, a person, and it is the person that is the god and the person who acts. He is himself when he smites you for annoying him even as he is himself when he smiles and shows patience. To divorce him from that, to say he is not himself when he exercises his free will, is to take the four parts of his self and set them above will. Gods are made of Virtues AND Willpower. You haven't addressed this element, which I already mentioned, of how the idea of the Unconquered Sun encompasses not just the best (as aspiration), but the truth that all beings can choose their path. To say "You were intemperate, so you're not really the Unconquered Sun" is like me telling you that "This writing of yours just isn't up to your standards, so you can't put your name on it." It's ludicrous.

When you take away his capacity to fail as a necessary and intrinsic part of him, you cheapen him to a concept. You make him like a Primordial, when he's a fully-realized and complex person with wants and loves and hates and purpose. You rob him of his complexity. You rob him of his identity. You rob him of his power to be a useful metaphor for Exaltation. You rob Storytellers of using him to say "There is no one so high and moral that they do not also contain contradictory wickedness."

There is no "he cannot take" to any action. It's bad wording, bad logic and it isn't born out by the rules. There is no "he is only his Virtue" because he is also the Charm in which he casts Virtue aside to devastate a people. He is bigger than the cardboard cutout you're reducing him to. All his traits are defining.

I am ok with a handful of setting elements being the sort of challenges you can't solve with violence alone, or not without doing something heinous. I mean, if you really want to use violence to solve the threat of the Neverborn, you go down with the Exalted host and you exterminate every ghost, every spectre. Technology exists to blast souls into Lethe, so you aren't really damaging the universe. When you've sterilized it, you set up automated defense systems to destroy any ghost that forms. No ghosts means no agents for the Neverborn, which means they can whine and moan impotently forever as no threat to you. Problem solved. Omnicide of a Realm of Existence for the win! Or perhaps you decide that to fight the sun, you must destroy the concept of perfection, so you figure out which shinma you need to express an aspect you can murder to prune some unwanted cosmological concepts. Oh hey, no more perfect effects for anyone! Problem solved. Or maybe it would be sufficient to extinguish all sources of light.

Of course, these are horrific solutions, but they are examples of ways that enough violence can "solve" problems that are beyond seeming violence. If you're willing to cause enough harm, you can kill anything. All you have to do to beat the worst monsters in the universe is surpass their evil. The lesson of Exalted isn't "Violence solves problems." The lesson is "Violence solves one problem by creating a worse one." So yeah, if you want to put the sun out in a straight fight, you might need to crack the universe to do it. Surely Solars are up to that?

hatewheel wrote:

I withdraw my assertion and argument.

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