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What is it about Abyssals that you don't like?

Deathlords
5 (31%)
Redemption arcs/options
2 (13%)
Solar mirroring (with respect to charms)
2 (13%)
General fluff
1 (6%)
Soulsteel
No votes
Resonance
1 (6%)
Limited character concepts
3 (19%)
Other
2 (13%)
 
Total votes: 16
 
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The Neverborn would like your input!

09 Apr 2012, 20:35

Hey guys,

I'm in the process of brainstorming a game of Exalted for TFS that explores Abyssal themes and dramatics. I want to make it a fun game and intend to modify some stuff in the process, but I'd like to get everyone's feedback on what they feel would make Abyssals more interesting to them if it were fixed and otherwise get as much criticism as possible on the state of Abyssals as-is.

Kindly take a look at the poll I've posted and pick the option that you think deserves the most attention. If it's a deadlock between multiple ones for you then go ahead and post your dual (or multi) concern and if you wouldn't mind, also post and explain why you chose the option you did. If none of what Abyssals play upon interests you or all of it puts you off, that's cool too. I'm still curious as to why you don't like 'em, and feel free to post why you do like them if that's the case.

Hope to hear from TFS soon on this.
 
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

09 Apr 2012, 20:55

I'm honestly ambivalent about a lot of Abyssal fluff - most of it seems passably tolerable to me, though that's likely because a) I'm incredibly easygoing, and b) I tend to only take broad strokes of fluff like that for building a char, unless I'm GMing; in which case I make tweaks as required. Mostly because as a player, what is going on in the upper echelons doesn't tend to affect us unless it's a fundamental shift.

There is, however, one aspect of Abyssal fluff which I will say is more than a little awkward to deal with - the Deathlords. More specifically, their control vis-a-vis Monstrances, and the easy OHKO on the players. I'm not overmuch concerned about their raw GAR as is, that can be handled simply through the power of MacGuffins (this one ring to the mountain or legendary sword of light/uberness or whatever); it's that, as is, it removes a lot of agency from the player - their actions even after being freed are restricted heavily, and not in a fun way. Now, your average newbie, making their first Abyssal, probably wouldn't care much; but a GM who knows the world and the raw evil these guys tend to possess makes it awkward for them to explain, well...why not simply knock off any newbie Abyssal who decides to go renegade and try again? Not like they're losing anything in the bargain there - they've got resources to find a whole boatload of new recruits if they want to. A more powerful deathknight going rogue, there they're more likely to hold off on simply 'offing' them in exchange for trying to seduce them Back To The Dark Side, as it were - but new Abyssal chars at Ess 2-3? Yeah, no.

In short, it's a Sword of Damocles that could have been done much better. Admittedly, a GM can call 'rocks fall everyone dies' if he gets sufficiently pissed off, but a game like Exalted, you expect your characters to die in as badass and over-the-top manner as possible, preferably altering the course of history and geography in the process; or bested after a complex battle of wits in which you understand that your foe has just slightly outdone you, and you die with a smile on your face as your own assassins close in on him at the same time. A killswitch that just has you fall over? Not fun.

Anyway, that's just my mind on it. /shrug. Cheers!
 
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

09 Apr 2012, 21:08

I agree a bit with Kyri about the Monstrance thing, though I should point out that in the book the Deathlord can only killswitch an Abyssal if he's willing to lose the Exaltation as well by throwing the Monstrance into the Void. Most Deathlords, I imagine, would not like to lose an exaltation if at all possible, so them ganking their Abyssals at will is not a big concern. The errata might even remove this extreme threat, though its wording is a bit unclear.

The thing that I dislike the most about Abyssals is their forced association with physical trappings of death; you know, wearing skulls, hanging out in graveyards, etc. I like the association with death as concept and their commitment to Oblivion, but the other stuff seems a bit hokey and still too tied to the concerns of the living to truly reflect the grander purpose of the Abyssals. It's not a big thing, just the one slight dislike I can find about them.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

09 Apr 2012, 21:10

I put in a vote for the Deathlords for one main reason. some people, including the writers at time, seems to forget that there are two parts to what a Deathlord is: a Solar ghost. I've seen FAR more focus on the Solar part and not on the ghost part, and that irks me. They're supposed to be beefy ghosts, I know. But, I think that would be far better shown with more actual ghostly charms instead of "They have versions of all the Solar charms and...um...yeah. Stuff. >.>" They don't even have Arcanoi!

You can see hints of their Passions in places here and there, but it's far too infrequent. Eye and Seven Despairs is the only one that seems to show this, and he's considered the 'weakest' Deathlord because of it. To just about everyone else, his insane focus on bringing suffering to the bearers of his former circlemates' shards seems foolish and idiotic. However, one must remember that the Solar that he used to be died with those men and women on his mind; he killed himself because of their torments, and that leaves marks on a dying soul

Hell...the current write-ups for the deathlords that we have don't even have Passions listed or denote that they might even have them.

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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

09 Apr 2012, 21:17

I said "other" because the main problem I've seen is the "how do you play a weredolphin when everyone else is a land mammal" thing, them being bound to the Underworld when everything else is bound to Creation, but a lot of the genuinely obnoxious-in-play bits of that've been fixed or are really easy to ignore.

I like playing Abyssals. I like characters with built-in arcs of tragedy and redemption. I like playing villain-protagonists. I like having to deal with having a boss who probably isn't on your side even when you're on theirs. I like their fluff, I like that Resonance actually matters even in games where Limit is completely ignored, and if they're handled properly with a level of challenge or freedom appropriate to the plot and character concept, I even like Deathlords. Not the crunch, but the idea of them.

If I just wanted to play a badass hero who could do basically whatever, with overtones of having done some really horrible shit in the past they may or may not be sorry for, and who was really good at murder, I'd play a Solar. Because... you can do that with a Solar. Hell, there are sig NPC Solars with those themes. You can also do a lot of the moral-ambiguity and I'm-part-of-a-hierarchy bits with Sidereals, and I sure do love Sidereals.

There are Abyssal hacks that are really fun too- Lavos once did one involving Five Days Darkness, and I like Jaito's Gold AU Abyssals, for two I have experience with- but I haven't really seen any fluff-related issues so far with Abyssals that don't come down to "I don't personally enjoy playing this sort of character", and well, they're an antagonist splat. I guess it's down to taste? Eh.

Edit: Fluff-related as in directly related to playing a canon Abyssal concept, not with Deathlords or the Underworld or ghosts or "wouldn't it be cool if instead", all of which have some really interesting points other people have stated better than I could.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

09 Apr 2012, 22:36

"Pick one". Welp. Hm. Not voting yet, need to figure out which of the list is MOST offensive to me. So...

Deathlords are conceptually a decent idea, but they need more emphasis on "were the Neverborn's last attempt, and are a cock-up; they have their Passions that drive them, and the power of a third circle's vestige didn't suddenly make them relevant to Creation." I'd want to eliminate all the nonsense about "Knows every solar and every Abyssal charm and sorcerous and necromantic spell, including those ones you just made, just now, he was making them before your body went cool *hipster deathlord*" - make them moderately powerful [E6-7] ghosts with Third Circle panoply charms.
Within limited areas of expertise, working towards their Passions, they can exert a ridiculous amount of power - ~25 dice. Only having one of these limits them to about 16 dice. Having neither, 8 or fewer.
First and Forsaken Lion is a peerless strategist and tactician. When he's warring on someone for one of his passions [which would need to be detailed; let's say "Conquering the South, which he owned in Life" is one], he has his full 25 dice. You don't want to oppose his conquering the south with an army if you can help it, because he will be a formidable foe. You want to drag him away from the south and force him to battle you on some other terrain, or force him into a non-war confrontation -- destabilize his army with bureaucracy or social attacks.

There needs to be more arc options than "bitch of the Neverborn" and "turning Solar+". Solar+ification needs to be carefully weighed, and have most of your "story arc rewards" go to it - such that an ess 5 Twilight has ~five significant advantages [a factory-cathedral, a loyal city, etc] over the Daybreak who went Solar+. EXP penalization is a poor stick, since it literally says "You can't be as cool as them, you can't have as much cool stuff", and just encourages minmaxing to catch up.
I personally like the idea of shedding the chains of the Neverborn and becoming Exalted of the Underworld and of Lethe, helping ghosts resolve their Passions and move on to a new life if that's your thing, or [though this is anathemic to me, I know some people like it >_>] making an underworld heaven for ghosts to linger in for eternity as a "reward".

Part of #2 above, but a separate concern; Abyssals need a proper theme beyond "Solars with extra murderstick"; I find Abyssal charm design excruciatingly boring because there's relatively little room as-written for growth beyond "I make life shit for everyone".

Resonance I don't have too much of a problem with as-written. I like that it's a tighter chain on the Abyssals than Limit is on Solars, although the apparent omniscience of the Neverborn is a little bothersome. Tricking the Devil should always be an option, and that "they know if you're trying to cheat them and will punish you with more resonance" is annoying.

As Greens says, a defining area for "this is an Abyssal story" is a good thing that is sorely missing as well.

I guess I'll vote for arcs.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

09 Apr 2012, 22:58

My answer is probably twofold: Deathlords and limited character concepts. Killfuck Soulshitter and Emo McAngstypants are valid Abyssal character concepts, but as it is, it seems like there's ultimately only a handful of ways to develop your character. Loyalist, renegade, or repentant. Sometimes finding places to work in character concepts and still remain in theme can be frustrating.

Deathlords have mostly been covered, but I think they are perhaps an overstated threat in the setting. They should be powerful, as befits old ghosts infused with the power of the Void, but I kind of think "All 10s all the time :D" is a bit much in terms of how powerful they are. I think they would be far more interesting if more than just their stats were explored; at least two of the canon Deathlords are pretty forgettable, and if you're going to have ancient dead ghost kings roaming around they should not be forgettable. Furthermore, once the Neverborn enter the picture the Deathlord's control becomes trivial, leading me to wonder why Deathlords are really necessary in the chain of command in the first place, unless their job is literally to hand out black Exaltations like candy, but you could do that with any ghost on your side really.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

09 Apr 2012, 23:24

Another vote to kick the Deathlords here. Fuck them in the Solar Charms that they shouldn't have.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

10 Apr 2012, 03:09

Dinosaur wrote:
Another vote to kick the Deathlords here. Fuck them in the Solar Charms that they shouldn't have.


they have solar charms?


as for abyssals having too few character development options - dont forget 'neutral' - as in the off change that a renegade or repentant abyssal who destroyed his monstrance, but who then got killed.

then you get an abyssal exalt who's not chained to a deathlord as the exaltation finds a new near-death candidate.


they can develop in far more varied ways - my fav being a "It is my duty to put the dead to rest" sort. He might oppose deathlord exploitation of ghosts, but also defend tombs against looters and help ghosts find peace by avenging those who murdered them in life, or help their widows, or whatever
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

11 Apr 2012, 11:30

Kailan wrote:
My answer is probably twofold: Deathlords and limited character concepts. Killfuck Soulshitter and Emo McAngstypants are valid Abyssal character concepts, but as it is, it seems like there's ultimately only a handful of ways to develop your character. Loyalist, renegade, or repentant. Sometimes finding places to work in character concepts and still remain in theme can be frustrating.


Kailan pretty much covered my points. I don't mind Deathlords. They can be as overt or in the background as the story series needs them to be. Mostly, after all these years the one thing I'm left with is that there's just so little to -do- with the average Abyssal. Kill the world, talk it into killing itself, build weapons to kill it, kill it without it seeing you coming, and make sure everyone else can kill the world uninterrupted. Woo. Granted, Solars have a righteous, virtuous kick to them but they get so much more mileage out of it.

I want shepherd of the dead. I want redeemer of the dead. Hell, I want something else in the underworld, a threat from nowhere no one's ever heard of and if it isn't halted in the Grave it will come out to swallow the living...and it's not Oblivion, it's something else.

Anything else really would be refreshing. Though at least it's fitting that the champions of the dead are as boring to play after a point as the ghosts they protect/enslave/annihilate.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

11 Apr 2012, 11:57

Here I always thought that the FaFL secretly wanted to conquer all of creation and rule it - rather than destroy it

that's my headcanon anyway
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

12 Apr 2012, 00:14

webkilla wrote:
they have solar charms?


Manual of Exalted Power, Abyssals wrote:
Because of their pacts with the Neverborn, each Deathlord can use any Charms she knew during her life—except those that carry the Holy keyword (not that a Deathlord would ever willingly use such a Charm anyway). In most cases, the necrotic energy that now fuels the Deathlord perverts her Charms, causing them to manifest as their Abyssal equivalents, or at least gives any visible manifestation a deathly cast. This is not always so, however, especially in the case of Deathlords who were Eclipse Caste Solars in life and who had learned Charms associated with other Exalted types. Mercifully,
only a few Deathlords appear to fit that category, and they appear to know only a few Lunar, Sidereal, divine or Dragon-Blooded Charms.
The Sidereals believe (or at least hope) that since the Deathlords reside outside fate, they cannot practice any Sidereal martial arts styles they remember from their former lives. Their hopes are in vain.


Solar charms, Sidereal Martial Arts, possibly Lunar, Sidereal, DB, or spirit charms if they're an Eclipse deathlord... e_e
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

12 Apr 2012, 02:10

I honestly don't mind that

plus - it'd kinda open for a non-'solar ghost' themed deathlord

like a lunar themed oned (the dowager) or possibly a sid or DB deathlord


come on, that'd be fun :)
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

12 Apr 2012, 11:02

Sidereal Deathlord?

/picks up hat and coat.

PEACE.

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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

12 Apr 2012, 11:03

webkilla wrote:
like a lunar themed oned (the dowager)


Different example necessary, Abyssals explicitly states the Dowager isn't a Lunar. ;)
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

12 Apr 2012, 15:27

Kailan wrote:
webkilla wrote:
like a lunar themed oned (the dowager)


Different example necessary, Abyssals explicitly states the Dowager isn't a Lunar. ;)


I'm aware of that - but who says we have to stick to official fluff? A lunar deathlord could be in the shape of a deathlord who's niche is that it wants to kill off all of creation to ends the pain that is mortal life, since all of mortal (in its eyes) revolves around suffering. Well, maybe without the sex-addict spin that the Lover has on that theme. A deathlord who's minions specifically kill in painless ways, like in your sleep? Via undead insects crawling into your bed and injecting you repeatedly with anesthetic poison, so you stay asleep... and just die.

kyriotsu wrote:
Sidereal Deathlord?

/picks up hat and coat.

PEACE.

/legs it.


LOL! I think I hit a nerve.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

12 Apr 2012, 17:00

webkilla wrote:
Kailan wrote:
webkilla wrote:
like a lunar themed oned (the dowager)


Different example necessary, Abyssals explicitly states the Dowager isn't a Lunar. ;)


I'm aware of that - but who says we have to stick to official fluff? A lunar deathlord could be in the shape of a deathlord who's niche is that it wants to kill off all of creation to ends the pain that is mortal life, since all of mortal (in its eyes) revolves around suffering. Well, maybe without the sex-addict spin that the Lover has on that theme. A deathlord who's minions specifically kill in painless ways, like in your sleep? Via undead insects crawling into your bed and injecting you repeatedly with anesthetic poison, so you stay asleep... and just die.


No one says you have to stick to official fluff, but official fluff is the default assumption unless you specify otherwise.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

12 Apr 2012, 17:32

true true
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

13 Apr 2012, 19:56

Replying to this idea a bit late:

webkilla wrote:
as for abyssals having too few character development options - dont forget 'neutral' - as in the off change that a renegade or repentant abyssal who destroyed his monstrance, but who then got killed.
then you get an abyssal exalt who's not chained to a deathlord as the exaltation finds a new near-death candidate.
they can develop in far more varied ways - my fav being a "It is my duty to put the dead to rest" sort. He might oppose deathlord exploitation of ghosts, but also defend tombs against looters and help ghosts find peace by avenging those who murdered them in life, or help their widows, or whatever


Except that mechanically speaking, they're just a renegade Abyssal without a particular Deathlord trying to track them down and reclaim them. Their charms are still the same "kill shit, make the world suck, destroy it all" effects. Their endgame remains the same, canonically; serve Oblivion (willingly or haplessly through charm use and resonance) or become a Solar.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

13 Apr 2012, 23:56

Kitsunemimi-Maiden wrote:
Except that mechanically speaking, they're just a renegade Abyssal without a particular Deathlord trying to track them down and reclaim them. Their charms are still the same "kill shit, make the world suck, destroy it all" effects. Their endgame remains the same, canonically; serve Oblivion (willingly or haplessly through charm use and resonance) or become a Solar.


I think that's just the point: Abyssals are the doomed Exalted, and their path can only end in death or redemption. The existential horror of their condition is a huge part of their appeal, at least to me, and I think the Abyssal book does a decent job addressing the issue. I can understand that it isn't everyone's cup of tea, but there are plenty of other kinds of Exalt who have all kinds of options open to them, happy, sad or otherwise. To limit the Abyssals in this way doesn't hurt the overall setting, and it allows for a unique sort of story. If you took that away and gave the Abyssals a third, neutral outcome they wouldn't be nearly as appealing.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

14 Apr 2012, 03:42

>The existential horror of their condition is a huge part of their appeal

that's part of what I love

Its that "Oh shit" feeling when an abyssal realizes just what he's signed himself up for - what horrorible end he'll get if he dies, and what horrible end he'll have to visit upon all of creation or get punished

heck, my idea of an attempted 'neutral' abyssal could be done in the form of an abyssal in denial: so horrified by the truth of his new undead nature that he just goes "Nope"
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Kitsunemimi-Maiden
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

14 Apr 2012, 06:33

Henry wrote:
I think that's just the point: Abyssals are the doomed Exalted, and their path can only end in death or redemption. The existential horror of their condition is a huge part of their appeal, at least to me, and I think the Abyssal book does a decent job addressing the issue. I can understand that it isn't everyone's cup of tea, but there are plenty of other kinds of Exalt who have all kinds of options open to them, happy, sad or otherwise. To limit the Abyssals in this way doesn't hurt the overall setting, and it allows for a unique sort of story. If you took that away and gave the Abyssals a third, neutral outcome they wouldn't be nearly as appealing.


I suppose; the main question in the poll here, however, is not "What is optimal for the game", but "What would make Abyssals more interesting to you".

Being a one-trick pony whose only options are Angst Without End, Oblivion's Bitch, and Born-Again Solar is what makes Abyssals unappealing to me. I don't angst, I seek solutions... so having my only solutions be "revel in nihilism" (which is not very functional outside of a Loyalist Abyssal game) or "work to become goldshiny" is unsatisfying to me.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

14 Apr 2012, 08:08

Kitsunemimi-Maiden wrote:
I suppose; the main question in the poll here, however, is not "What is optimal for the game", but "What would make Abyssals more interesting to you".

Being a one-trick pony whose only options are Angst Without End, Oblivion's Bitch, and Born-Again Solar is what makes Abyssals unappealing to me. I don't angst, I seek solutions... so having my only solutions be "revel in nihilism" (which is not very functional outside of a Loyalist Abyssal game) or "work to become goldshiny" is unsatisfying to me.


That's a perfectly reasonable opinion to have, since nihilism is an uncomfortable thing, even the cartoon nihilism of Abyssals. To change that would make them into something that is no longer an Abyssal; but you know that, so run with it if it makes your game better. However, it does feel, to me, like taking strange Fate magic away from Sidereals, or trying to lock Solars into a narrative box (being locked into an narrative box is an Abyssal thing, damnit!).

My knowledge of philosophy is very thin (I took a few classes as an undergrad!) but the philosophical problem of the Abyssals seems very similar to the problem confronting the atheists of the 20th century: if life is pointless, what do I live for? You can accept it uneasily, like Nietzsche, mock it, like Sarte, or recognize it as something that makes man heroic, like Camus. It doesn't have to manifest itself as pure destructive nihilism or angst and suffering - there are other options. The Abyssal NPCs I've introduced into my games have all had different attitudes towards Oblivion, which has added some real depth to their personalities.
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

14 Apr 2012, 12:05

Wow henry - that is seriously deep

I am so stealing that for various abyssal NPCs in my games
I have a webcomic: http://psitech.comicgen.com - Its kinda like exalted, except more furry, more fanservice, more fun, more sci-fi.
- may contain people being called "bob"
 
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Re: The Neverborn would like your input!

14 Apr 2012, 17:40

Henry wrote:
My knowledge of philosophy is very thin (I took a few classes as an undergrad!) but the philosophical problem of the Abyssals seems very similar to the problem confronting the atheists of the 20th century: if life is pointless, what do I live for?


Psst, atheism has remarkably little to do with nihilism. I'm also pretty sure Neitzsche's main issues were on another map entirely, but then I haven't read most of his stuff.

What would make Abyssals more interesting? Hm. Abyssal concepts that aren't angst, somebody's servant, or Solar. Well, in canon, there's raksha-slaughterer and protector of ghosts. There's the opportunity to play a double agent between a Deathlord and some other power, like a Lunar kingdom or Yu-Shan, but that's still acting in reaction to the Deathlords. In a game that still featured the Underworld, you could play someone who wanted to gather lost knowledge from ghosts, or draw lost Primordial knowledge from the Labyrinth, or study its strange reality-warping qualities and the metaphysical resonance left by the death of things bigger than the world to create Necrotech that's more about strange devices built on inhuman principles than strapping an implosion bow to a dead Yeddim.

Alternately, you could build someone who is really, really excited about strapping implosion bows to dead Yeddim. You could make someone who accidentally stole their master's things while they were away- mobile Manses, or zombie armies and shifting terrain, et cetera- or you could make someone who never actually got picked up by their Deathlord due to accident or mischance and has no idea what's going on past the first vision (let me tell you about my character, internet). Maybe the initial emissary had a run-in with a bunch of Solars... or something stranger. Become a wandering philosopher, forswearing attachment? Fluff the Resonance power that kills mortals as Kirk Syndrome? Hasten the end of rotting societies by making them destroy themselves. Or maybe someone who wants to end the principle of death entirely, or mine the Neverborn for parts.

Alternately, what could be changed to create more concept-space? What sort of refluff or tweak would be most useful for creating concepts people would like to play?
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