The Weight Of History

I feel that this is one of the biggest misconceptions among the fanbase.

Your Exalted is not automatically entitled to do big things simply by being an Exalt. You are capable of doing big things. You exalted because you were someone with the inner character that would allow them to do big things. But historically, many Exalted have squandered that potential, and almost none of them have fully lived up to it (in fact, you could argue that none have really, truly fully lived up to it.)

Most Celestial Exalted do not drastically change the direction of the setting. The world is different because it has Nazri and Lithesome Avid Engineer in it, certainly, but not so different that it would be unrecognizable if they were removed. The vast majority of Exalted fall into that category. They are larger-than-life in the way that Steve Jobs or William Randolph Hearst were larger-than-life, but when you're telling the grand, sweeping history of the setting as a whole, most Exalted don't dramatically change its direction.

They can't. If every single Exalted was a Big Guy doing Big Things like the Empress or Kejak Chejop, the history of Exalted would be both incoherent and meaningless. In general, the setting is written with the assumption that history follows a logical path. If you lose a war for Creation, you have lost. You're stuck without all the infrastructure and social power that was taken from you. You don't get to just flash your anima and say "I'm an Exalt, why can't I just grab it back?" If every Exalted was guaranteed to be able to do that, Exalted's history would have no meaning.

The vast majority of things in Exalted's history don't happen solely because one Exalted or ten Exalted or even a hundred wanted them to. They happen because of larger forces and trends operating across hundreds of years. The Sidereals grabbed history by the throat and changed its course, certainly, but they were able to do that because of the excess and the maniacal focus of the Solar Exalted (and the increasingly-disgruntled lot of the DBs, and the increasingly-disaffected position of the Lunar Exalted), all of which had its roots in events going back 3500 years. Things happen for larger and deeper reasons than just "I'm an Exalt and I want to make them happen."

People who can defy that — people who grab the flow of history and force it from its course — they do exist, but they are rare even among the Exalted. The idea that every Exalted dramatically changes the large-scale view of the setting simply by existing is a bad, bad thing that sets ridiculous expectations for the world's history. History is bigger than any one person, even an Exalt — it's governed by larger trends than just the decisions of even powerful people like those. Part of the theme of Exalted, in fact, is that despite all their power, the Exalted have often been governed by the larger flow of events, rather than governing them. Despite what it looks like, Exalted doesn't really subscribe to the Great Man theory of history (Grabowski was too knowledgeable to fall for that.)

It also undersells the sheer size of Creation. An Exalt can be a big deal and an interesting person and a mighty terror while still, ultimately, vanishing into the sheer size of Creation itself. My feeling is the the vast, vast majority of Exalted have been like this — awesome stories, interesting people, and if you met them you'd totally think they're larger than life — changing the lives of thousands of people — but on the scale of creation? Changing the lives of thousands of people can vanish like a stone into a river.

Your Exaltation grants you vast power. It chooses you because you have the will to use it. It gives you a great lifespan and the potential to do things far beyond what you could do before.

But it does not guarantee that you will make a difference. You have to do that yourself.

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