Chapter One: Mortal Heroes

No thumbnail sketch can do justice to the variety of histories and motives that produce mortal heroes, but it almost always begins with a call to adventure. This can be an involuntary adventure (defending one's home against invaders, being kidnapped, being framed for a crime, etc...) or one the hero chose (joining the army, running away from home, joining a more experienced hero in his travels, etc...), but the experience always involves a significant trial or obstacle that tests the very limits of the hero's talent and willpower. This might be a fierce melee, a daring escape, a hostile environment, the loss of loved one to a vastly superior opponent, or anything else that places tremendous emotional, mental, or physical strain on the hero. If the mortal endures this trial (many don't), she learns something about herself and earns newfound confidence. It is at this point that she goes from being merely mortal to heroic.

The change is a subtle one - not at all like Exaltation. Perhaps he finds that people come to him for advice or ask him to tell stories of his adventures. Maybe she develops an uncanny knack for arriving in a place just as trouble is starting or can creep up on a person unnoticed without even trying to do so. It could be that no one can sneak up on him anymore or she knocks the town bully out with one punch. A heroic mortal might live out his entire life with this latent talent and never use it to its full potential. What sets mortal heroes apart is that they eventually notice these aptitudes and decide to do something with them. A heroic mortal becomes a mortal hero at the moment he decides to be one, and that makes all the difference in the world.

What is a Hero?

Being a hero doesn't necessarily mean living selflessly in the pursuit of a high-minded ideal, but most active heroes have a reason why they pursue this lifestyle. Most often, this is directly linked to the hero's Nature and Primary Virtue. Despite this, all heroes have their own reasons for acting the way they do. This might be a desire for knowledge, justice, peace, attention, wealth, love, or any of the many things that drive people to move out of their comfort zone or beyond societal expectations.

On Mortality

Mortals do not have Castes or Aspects. They do not, in fact, need to categorize themselves at all. However, it is often easier for a player, especially one who is new to roleplaying, to have a starting point to work from. To that end, sample character concepts are provided in Chapter Two.

There are many things to consider when playing mortal heroes. Mortal heroes are not Exalted, which means there are some things Exalted take for granted that mortals simply cannot do without Edges, Heroics, or magic.


Mortal heroes are still mortals, and that alone prevents all but the most powerful or foolish from taking needless risks. They must pick their fights carefully lest they find themselves in way over their heads. Even then, they are certain to make enemies. A hero's reputation is more than just a tally sheet for children rescued and monsters slain. Often, it is the greatest armor a mortal hero wears. A beloved local hero can rely on the support and, in some cases, protection of her neighbors. Even the most cowardly and simple-minded farmhand is at least good for a meal and a bit of gossip if he owes his life to the hero, and the bouncer at the pub in the rough part of town might be willing to rough up someone who was impolite to the magician who cured his daughter's fever. Mortals in a mortal heroes game are not human scenery. They are people with skills, knowledge, and resources that might be of great value to the hero, one day.

On the other side of the argument, a reputation for villainy and cruelty is a much bigger problem then moral laziness. People may fear the power of a villainous hero, but they seldom cower in terror before one the way they do before one of the Chosen. Unless the hero can back up his threats with raw power or influence, someone is eventually going to come after him with intention to do harm. And if that doesn't work, a mob almost certainly will. It is possible for a mortal to rule her fellows with an iron fist, but even then, the hero cannot do it alone. Even a tyrant needs an army of brutal soldiers to enforce his will.

The Age of Sorrows is a difficult time for any mortal to live in. Heroes who are too vocal about or renowned for their skills will be conscripted, manipulated, or watched by those more powerful than themselves. Those who anger one of the Chosen or a spirit are likely to have especially short careers. Mortal heroes are hardly the biggest fish in the pond. Even the Charms of the Dragon-Blooded dwarfs all but the most advanced Heroics, and the lowliest Terrestrial Circle spell is still more powerful than any mortal magician's Third Circle spell.

Mortals Do Not Have Anima Banners: A mortal doesn't glow in the dark when spending Heroism unless she uses a spell or Artifact that causes her to do so. They do not have special anima effects as a natural result of their mystical nature, either. Mortal Edges reflect training, talent, and discipline, and Heroics reflect good luck, unshakeable tenacity, and skill. They are not magical. Mortal magic seldom results in a light show, though it betrays its nature to observers in other ways.

Heroes and Soak: Mortal heroes soak bashing damage with their full Stamina, but cannot soak Lethal damage without armor, Edges, or magic.

Bleeding, Infection, Disease, and Poison: Heroes are as susceptible to these things as an ordinary mortal, which provides them with further incentive to avoid direct confrontations, especially with Exalted. They heal at the same rate as mortals, as well, including the risk of complications.

Commonalities with the Exalted

Mortal heroes might not be Exalted, but they are still heroes. As such, they share some of the advantages possessed by the Chosen.

Spending Willpower: A hero may spend a point of temporary Willpower for one automatic success on a roll.

Channeling Virtues: A hero can channel a point of temporary Willpower through a Virtue to gain additional dice on an action that is in accord with the Virtue exactly like an Exalted. The hero may instead choose to channel a point of temporary Willpower through his Primary Virtue to instead regain a number of feats of Heroics equal to the rating of the Virtue.

Stunts: Mortal heroes may perform Stunts exactly as Exalted do, gaining additional dice on these actions as normal. If a stunt succeeds, the hero may regain a point of temporary Willpower if the stunt bonus was 2 or 3. If the stunt is in accord with the hero's Primary Virtue, she may instead choose to regain a number of feats of Heroism equal to the stunt bonus.

Advantages Over the Chosen

Being beneath the notice of most supernatural entities has its perks. Mortal heroes are often vastly underestimated by the Exalted, which provides them with an element of suprise when they face them as enemies. They are almost never drawn into the conflicts between the Chosen such as the Wyld Hunt or the political struggles of the Dynasts.

The Great Curse: Since mortals had nothing to do with the fall of the Primordials, they do not suffer from the Great Curse. They do not have Limit, Compulsions, Limit Breaks, or Virtue Flaws.

Free Combination: Mortals may freely Combo most Heroics without paying XP or Willpower for the Combo. This includes Heroics with durations of one turn and even Heroics of differing Abilities. They can use offensive and defensive Heroics in a single turn, activate multiple Heroics with a duration of Instant, and so forth.

Heroic Organizations

With heroes as with so many other crafts, a jack of all trades is a master of none. Specialization among heroes is the inevitable result of the difficulty of mastering a skill set during a mortal lifetime. Specialization, of course, also results in a hero with terrible weaknesses and knowledge holes, which is one of the reasons why heroes so often must cooperate with others of their kind. Whether they form a tight-knit Circle, a loose alliance, or a politically complex heroic society, most heroes who wish to accomplish great things beyond their villages eventually pool some of their resources with other heroes. Such organizations allow the members to take advantage of one another's specialties, provide protection in times of trouble, and can provide opportunities to exchange knowledge.

The simplest alliance among mortal heroes is often called the Circle, though some groups call it a band, a cabal, an alliance, a brotherhood, or any number of other similar names. A Circle is usually made up of three to eight heroes who regularly work and travel together. Most such groups do not have a clear command structure, or even a proper leader, but some at least designate individuals to take charge in situations directly related to their areas of expertise.

Many mortal heroes eventually join a network (also known as a cooperative, a guild, or any similar name), which is a loose collection of heroes. Members are free to pursue their own agendas, but in times of great need, they may call upon the aid of other heroes in the network. Some of these networks make shared resources such as libraries and Manses available to members for the asking or even loan money or artifacts.

Some heroes join a society (also called a house, a school, and so forth), which is a regimented alliance of like-minded heroes. Usually, this kind of alliance is a heirarchy with one or a handful of people in command of the entire organization. Members are expected to follow orders given by their superiors, but they also gain the power to give orders to underlings as they rise in power. As a member increases his rank and reputation within the organization, he is often granted increased access to the organization's resources - most notably artifacts, contacts, Manses, mentors, and money. Magicians are especially likely to form organizations rather than networks, since practitioners of magic are often fiercely protective of their secrets. This is not necessarily due to selfishness but is often the result of the responsibility magicians often feel for how their secrets are used. A magician whose apprentice turned to infernalism is often scorned by her peers almost as much as the infernalist.

Introduction Examples of Heroic Networks Examples of Heroic Societies Chapter Two: Character Generation