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Extras. Vital to any story, yet explicitly not important to it. Required as foils for the sheer awesomeness of the main characters, Extras provide proof that Exalts are awesome. Without Extras, the 'average' dice pool in Creation would be much higher, making the dice pools of the Exalts seem lower in comparison. If every Tom, Dick, and Larry has Attribute 3 + Ability 3 + Specialty 1 in whatever it is they do everyday, having Attribute 4 and Ability 5 only puts you with a dice pool 28% higher than them, and that's not very glorious at all.

Still, there are some philosophical questions about Extras that haven't been answered. Such as:

  1. Are you born an Extra?
  2. If an Extra, can you 'advance' to the next step - mortal - through your own efforts?
  3. If not an Extra, can fading importance to the story turn you back into one?
  4. Are Extras aware that they're less important? Less skilled?

I'll finish later... (My PhD dissertation is due in 9 hours!)\\ - GreenLantern

I'm not sure where you're getting this "Extras are less skilled". An Elite Soldier (still an extra) has almost as many dots as a starting heroic mortal, just as one example right off the top of my head. While "Importance" and "Competance" are often corellated, it is not a rigid or definate correlation. The most important thing to remember is that being an Extra or no is, as braincraft said on the page that spawned this discussion, purely a metagame artifact. Your status as an Extra delineates your plot importance or a lack thereof. You don't gain health levels, you merely become worthy of a more accurate accounting of your injuries etc. That being said, I'll now answer your questions so far as I see them

  1. Almost by definition, yes. Though you're far more likely to be off-screen, and thus not even a character at all. Obviously a PC's child is not an extra, and neither is the baby of Ahlat and his most beloved bride. Unless, of course, neither the PCs nor the Stroyteller care about the little tyke, but then you have to ask what he's doing there in the first place...
  2. No. Being an extra means you have no capability for self-willed action. You might attract the attention of some more important entity (ie a PC) through how the ST plays you or some quirk of fate, but that's your only real chance. Alternatively, whilst having been a loyal and mostly unknown entity in the PCs world conquering horde (and thus an extra), you could suddenly find yourself thrust into the rather more interesting (and probably short lived) role as a Realm spy (and thus probably not an extra) - but that was because the ST needed a spy and you were it.
  3. Probably. Though you're more likely to just slip off screen entirely I would guess, And then no-one really cares.
  4. No. And yes. As an extra, you are one of the faceless schmucks that make Creation work, and generally end up doing all the crappy jobs, like dieing during invasions, standing behind large ruminants as they pull ploughs through the field and performing the thankless task of running kingdoms about to be steamrollered by the PCs. You probably know it's your lot in life to be a soldier/peasant/generic king #2317, but you probably don't know that PCs will kill you easier because they can't be bothered rolling dice to damage you or that the ST will just say "Oh, hmm, yeah, he rolls 4 dice for that ... Oh, he fails. Ah well."

- Kraken hopes your dissertation gets in on time and everything

The difference between extras and characters is a difference in depiction, not identity. - willows

Even though Willows has omitted all elaboration, I think I agree with his general sentiment (though I can't be sure). Being an extra is a matter of focus, in my games. For instance, a typical soldier in a town is an extra, especially if they get in the way of an escaping PC, or if they interrupt a PC that's doing something important. However, if I were to take that very same guard, strip him of his equipment and throw him in a ring for the PC to duke it out one-on-one, then suddenly, the PC, the demigod, is concentrating all his attention on this one guy. Suddenly, the guy gets a bunch of extra health levels (though no particular skill increase). If your PC is FOCUSING, concentrating on an 'NPC', if that NPC is the goal, then their existence gets reinforced because a demigod is acknowledging him, for that brief time. But if suddenly someone in the audience has a demon explode from his chest, boom, the demigod could give a rat's ass, and our NPC fighter suddenly finds himself in the very precarious Extra category, perhaps for our PC to throw at the demon as a fleshy javelin. The attention of a PC can anchor things more solidly to existence. If the aforementioned demon dissolves into essence upon death, but the PC wanted to rip out its spine to use as a garotte for another enemy, then the spine wouldn't dissolve until the PC is done with it. Same principle of focus, of depiction, of relevence. --UncleChu
I don't view extras having this kind of continuity. An extra is an ephemeral thing used to fill out a scene; it lacks even the stability of a prop. When you get into a crowd scene, new extras are created from ether to fill that crowd, and when the scene ends they cease to exist.
This is, of course, because they're not even scenery. They obstruct your view of the scenery. - willows
Wow, a highly abstract idea... 'if the PC doesn't see it, it doesn't exist.' What if, during that scene, an extra is somehow tagged with some kind of sense-riding charm? After the scene, they don't dissolve, because an Exalt is riding their senses. Would you have the charm fail because the extra MUST dissolve, because he is inherently worthless? Or does the extra always exist, doing its small part to support whatever society it belongs to? Or is the charm lending the same 'focus' that cements its existence, at least while the PC deems the extra worthy and useful to live on? --UncleChu
You're assuming that extras are people in a world. They're not. They're a bit of description inside a piece of fiction, and behave likewise. "Exist" is a shorthand that really means "we need some such idea to support other related ideas in the fiction". - willows
Well, crap, that line of thinking is like saying a painting is really just a collection of pigments on canvas, and not a window into another time or place, or that music is a collection of pitches arranged in a semi-mathematical order, completely devoid of soul or meaning. Exalted is a format for telling fictional stories, of course, but the best fiction is the fiction that paints a world. But if you break it down in the way you propose, instead of saying "Burning Heron's blade slices through the dark priest atop the windy cliff" its "Fictional protagonist progresses the plot by injuring the lesser antagonist in a less-than-ideal environment." You're looking at the mechanics, the less-than-aesthetic backside of a story. Absolutely, extras are simply cannon fodder, stuff to use in a setting, and completely imaginary. But GreenLantern above is delving into the philosophy, the speculation on the nature of an 'extra' within the setting, not within an analytical context of fictional devices. --UncleChu
Who do you think the Raksha are based on? ~WillCoon
Extra status has no correspondent in the fiction. It's a tool we use to make the mechanics of storytelling easier. - willows
Ouch. Little harsh on the "Well I'm just wrong" thing, but I'll get over it. To me, there is precedent, as there are charms that specifically apply to Extras. Ones that say "Oh, and extras just die" and "Oh, extras just lose this roll", et cetera. Some freaky Twilight studying charm interactions had to notice that little subsection of people that were just easier to kill, and easier to control - or more precisely, that some subset of the population wasn't so easy to deal with. My guess is they had a title for such non-Extras. Take Abyssals - given a few years of time, some Twilight-equivalent is going to recognize that there are some people that are able to provide far more essence than others. (Extras cap out at 3, or 4, I believe). There are in-setting differences between Extras, mortals, and heroic mortals. Just my take, at least. -- GreenLantern
Eh, that's kind of dumb. The reason Charms say "Extras just die/fail this roll/fall in line behind you" has nothing to do with the setting. It's not like there is a specific subset of people within Creation who are inherently more susceptible to certain Charms, and there's no way a Twilight is going to go "Aha! I have discovered the Extra!" just like that same Twilight will never say "Aha! I have discovered a potion that raises my Dexterity by 2 dots!" Extras exist to facilitate dramatic storytelling, not as anything within the setting. If you had to roll your army-killing Charm for every shmuck infantryman, that wouldn't be very epic, would it? -- OhJames

Here's my take on the initial questions. The key thing to remember here is that the operations of the Loom of Fate determine the nature of things which exist inside Fate. The Loom of Fate is constantly trying to tell a congerie of simultaneous stories, ranging from the 'exciting' adventures of Bob the Match Boy all the way up to the world-shaking machinations of Ma-Ha-Suchi and Chejop. This world is stable and internally consistent and to some degree fractal; the small scale adventures of Bob the Match Boy contain the same human emotions and judgements which drive Chejop and Ma-Ha-Suchi to oppose each other; their greater power simply means their jealousies and hatreds can shape the world on a much larger scale. Extras don't come into existence to act as scenery; Creation doesn't just make people as convenient to the story--that's how life in Rakshastan works. Every extra has a life of his own, but it's a low-impact life, easily erased and having only a tiny impact on the tapestry, which is why the Loom doesn't give him much durability in the face of higher priority Exalts. So-- 
People are born as Extras in most cases, unless they're a baby who plays a major role in the world's story. Those who kick against the traces of Destiny are usually destroyed by it, but the rest may begin to make something of themselves, and rise in effective status from Extra to Mortal to maybe even an Exalt. At the same time, you may well have been chosen by Destiny to rise to a higher status of importance. I would think this is a one-way trip; once you cease to matter to the PC's story, your story goes on quietly in the background where they probably won't notice, but they might if they decide to go look. But since the PCs can't see most of creation at any given time there's always stories they're not seeing. Extras are generally not aware of their extra status, though some may feel disatisfied at the smallness of their life, like anyone else. Some extras are highly skilled, though. That skill just fails to make a distinct impact on the world.
-- JohnBiles

I'm with four willows. Extras are a simplification, like dots, 25 skills and 7 HL's. Generally speaking, an extra is someone who isn't important to the story right now. I mean, if you had multiple games in the same creation, could someone be an extra in one game and not in another? I think so. -FlowsLikeBits

Willows is totally right. All I'm pointing out is that GL didn't start this discussion as "please define an extra from a mechanical or literary viewpoint", it seems to me he's speculating more on the nature of an extra viewed through the lens of the setting. I definitely don't agree with extras being a "subtype" or something of a person in Creation, as indeed a Twilight wouldn't say, "it seems that all possible actions can be categorized into 25 distinct Abilities!" The Extra title serves as a game mechanic, but after the slaughter of 25 extras, there's still going to be a moment's contemplation, at least among the more compassionate characters, that, "Shit, those may have been people's friends, family, and lovers." The game-mechanic level rests at a different frequency than the story/fantasy/'reality' level. Thus, the 'extra' status can slide up and down the scale based on the events in the story. In-setting, the people don't just melt back into the Wyld. Mr. Biles is correct, they still form part of the Tapestry, and thus contribute to Creation.--UncleChu

Wow - I'm actually amazed at the number of quality Wikizens posting on this topic. (A compliment to you all). At the same time, I'm equally amazed that I'm the only one that's let the meta-game seep into the setting. I assumed that everyone took the mechanics to the extreme - which is to say, followed what would happen in the setting if the mechanics were 100% right and detailed. And yes, you do end up with Twilights categorizing the 25 Abilities (how can they not? They correlate to the 25 Sidereal sutras, the 25 Sidereal colleges, they fall into the various 5-favoreds-per-caste system, etc). You do end up with some Great-Cursed Twilights doing their experiments on "Extras" because after all - "those aren't people anyway". The concept of perfection, of course, carries in quite well, with people explicitly developing 'perfect' charms because they can only be stopped by perfect defenses - not just learning to shoot a bow, but knowing that when you do it just right, it'll never miss. I've imagined Geomancers fully aware of the concept of a "Manse Rating", struggling to ensure that with that level 3 demense, they cap it with a level 3 Manse - or risk damage to the future inhabitants. And also sadly realzing that they simply don't have the skills required to design a level 5 Manse, and as such, that ultra-powerful Demense just over the mountain will have to remain uncapped and unsafe. But it seems none of you internalize the mechanics into the setting like I do. Must be why I'm so Crunch-Oriented. If the Crunch says something, while the crunch bends for PC's and the story, it never bends for the average case. And hence, the crunch runs the world when I'm not looking. -- GreenLantern

I'm not sure the case of the twilight is meaningful. As soon as he starts taking an interest in the specific people, they cease to become Extras. Or rather, while a Manse is definately rating 1 or 2 or 5, a milita member is merely "Usually an Extra". As soon as the twilight becomes interested enough in her to discover if she's an Extra, she isn't, because the twilight is interested in her. The existance of charms such as the openning to Hungry Ghost does however suggest that a mote is a discrete in game concept (even beyond the fact it's mentioned in the setting description) ,,, and so a Manse rating is too (you can obviously derive the rating by only letting someone regain from a manse). Likewise, beyond the sutras, given the combo rules and a lot of time and xp, you can derive the 25 abilities - Each ability becomes something like "The Range Of Activities I Can Enhance Without Using A Combo". However, I don't think there are any charms or spells that specifically target Extras, which suggests it's purely a metagame concept, unlike Manse rating. - Kraken
Although I don't have the books to hand I do recall that the Abyssal blood-draining Charms allowed the Exalted to extract more motes from a non-Extra than from an Extra (3m/HL or some such figure IIRC). That suggests that, to some degree, the narrative importance (or lack thereof) of a given person is accounted for. - Moxiane
I rather agree with Kraken that the Abilities are substantial in the setting in a way that extras are not. Generally I draw a line between depiction tools, such as extras and dramatic timing, and facts about characters and the world, like Abilities and Graces. The fact that I can't know an extra's Abilities tells me that it's an abstraction for the game and not a quirk of the setting. - willows
Ah, *patting belly* I'm quite satiated now, I think a good place has been reached. The distinction between "rules" and "stats" is a great way to look at it, Willows. I love crunch too, GL, so I appreciate where you're coming from as well... First Age Solars probably figured out the different "stats" ratings for everything in Creation (25 constellations is powerful indication of that, excellent point),but of course, its all lost now, and the Solars have a lot more on their minds in the meantime than five classes of archery ability. But Kraken hits the best point... as soon as a Twilight starts poking and prodding at a slave, assigning it a number... then he or she becomes an intricate prop or scene device. Unless a bunch of the slaves revolt, which would switch them to Extras, and when one of them survives and escapes to become an informant of the research facility to the DBs, he may very well become a heroic mortal, having escaped from your twisted Twilight.
Also, skimmed through Abyssals, found blood-drinking charms, but nothing that distinguishes Extras from others... can anyone else find it?--UncleChu
I don't have my Abyssal (or any books to hand) but now that Moxiane reminds me, I do recall it. IIRC it's in the same section where it talks about abyssals growing fangs and drinking blood, so the anima abilities section. - Kraken
It's in a sidebar, I believe. I think it may be near the beginning of the Charms chapter, or otherwise in the vicinity of anima abilities and suchlike. - David.
No sidebar. Last sentence of page 136. "Extras never provide more than 3 motes."--UncleChu
I actually think the example of the Twilight studying the effects of charms on mortals can provide some insight to this. while trying to assign one a number for purposes of study makes them a mortal instead of an extra, as soon as you stop paying attention to them they revert to extra status. For example, a twilight has developed a spell for non lethal crowd control that she knows will only knock mortals unconscious (using bashing damage). She knows this because she has tested it extensively on many mortals. only she then uses it on a riot and most of the participants die. "Why did that happen?" she asks and then proceeds to test it on mortals many more times, still only knocking them unconscious. Deciding that the deaths were a fluke she clears it for riot use again only to have everyone die again. After several repeats of this she will become desperate to understand why this is happening, all her calculations are correct, the spell works perfectly in every test, but when it actually sees use, people DIE. Many of her fellows will then become interested in this phenomenon and begin research themselves. After some amount of time one of them will discover something quite similar to what we now know as quantum mechanics, You CAN NOT observe something without affecting it. whenever someone of power is observing a mortal closely they always survive, if no essence users are paying attention to them they usually (though not always) die. - Rathmun
Wow. Quantum Mechanics + Exalted. I actually agree with you entirely, as well. That's exactly the type of scenario I envision. -- GreenLantern

I will apply my pet theory, the "Anthropomorphic Principle of Universal Dramatic Convenience" to this subject. Yes, I just made that name up right now. Posit: The universe is shaped by the belief and perception of sentient individuals. What is perceived as reality is in fact the muddy, weirdo area where our collective consciousnesses overlap. Reality is shaped by the mind, and so extras are extras because nobody except other extras gives a flying act of copulation about them. They exist to make dramatic scenes more dramatic. In effect, everybody is an extra to somebody. For crying out loud, in the war between the Primordials and the Exalts, wouldn't the Primordials have shredded major Exalt butt before fighting the heroes' heroes? The shredded Exalts would have been extras to the Primordials. Same principle. It's all relative, and it's all for the sake of awesome fight scenes and stuff. The extras are only extras because it is dramatically convenient for them to be so. The PCs perceive themselves as the most awesome dudes in a scene, and the extras are inclined to agree. Basically, extras are extras because you say the'yre extras. They stop being extras when the important people leave. It's a time-saving measure, as well as a way to highlight the PC's overall 1337ness. - Han'ya