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Institute of Thaumaturgical Excellence

The Institute of Thaumaturgical Excellence is the third training camp of the Solars indoctrinated by the Cult of the Illuminated. Whereas the first two take their cues from the nature of the Dawn and Zenith Solar Castes, the Institute favors the Twilight Caste.

Solars trained at the Institute are rarely seen beyond its borders. When they are seen, they are often mistaken for learned individuals and surly savants, for they do little to draw attention to themselves; their creations and magic do that for them. Glasses and goggles are commonly seen among them to preserve their eyesight from the strain of voluminous reading, fast velocities and the backwash of experiments. Many also proudly sport various burns and stains, and generally have a scruffy, unkempt appearance. There's no particular dress code, although, on occasions when they know that they'll be seen, Solar trainees will often wear the scholarly black robes and flat, quad-cornered tasselled hats that are their emblem. When conflict is ahead, they tend to eschew the traditional methods of 2nd Age combat such as the sword and fist, and instead augment themselves with essence-powered battle armor, vehicles that traverse land, sea and sky, and powerful magical devices.

The School of the Occult: Situated on an isolated island in the Western Ocean and obfuscated by powerful wards and Sidereal Astrology, the School of the Occult has little need of the overt defenses and disguises of the other camps. It wears it's nature openly, and it's sprawling buildings are clearly modelled after a blend of the architectural styles of 1st & 2nd Age universities. While only a few gleaming structures are visible from the air, much of the Institute exists below the ground, in well-lit complexes where new creations are invented and tested. There are also large clearings, where new spells and devices are tested. The former site of a 1st-Age Twilight's laboratory-manse, the Institute has one of the few fully-functional Factory-Cathedrals in existence (restoring it was one of the first Solar graduates' final exams). The school is far from defenseless. It is practically crawling with unseen demon and elemental servants, summoned and bound as watchdogs, as well as automated defense and early-warning systems of varying degrees of sophistication.

The Institute is divided into three main sections: The Blessed Hospice, where Solars learn the ways of mending the body from injury and illness; the Armory of Resplendant Wonders, affixed to the Factory-Cathedral, where everything from Warstriders to Automaton Assassins are assembled and stored; and the Auspicious Range of Testing, where eldritch creatures are summoned and bound and new spells practiced.

The Role of the School: The Sidereal Chosen of Secrets who founded the Institute did so after the other two schools. He figured that his Solars would best serve the world by servicing other Solars, in a support capacity. To that end, he gathered all the Lore he and his followers could find, and designed an educational program that could successfully educate newly-exalted students as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Institute Solars rarely travel, except to investigate some bizarre phenomena or to gather rare materials from dangerous locales. They often visit the other camps to deliver perfected weapons and to treat their wounded. They have been known to respond to great natural disasters and plagues, testing their engineering and medical knowledge to save countless lives.

Wherever there is the Cult, there will be Tiger Warriors, and the Institute is no exception. However, visitors may be hard-pressed to believe that these plucky mortals ARE Tiger Warriors. Bearing more in common with Lookshy's Sohei, these soldier-savants act chiefly in a support capacity for their Solars, serving as lab assistants, nurses, research aides, and in some cases, guinea pigs. One shouldn't think them weak, however. They have mastered many of the Thaumaturical Arts and Sciences, are often armed with mechanical wonders seldom seen in Creation (often wearing armor that is, or is similar to, Gunzosha and Ashigaru armor), and will not hesitate to lay down their lives to buy their Solars the precious seconds to get that spell off.

Geography: The unnamed island that hosts the Institute appears to be a lifeless mass of rock from a distance, an impression that is heightened by the dangerous-looking pall of mists that constantly overhang it. Any who dare to breach the mists find themselves lost in them for a time, before sailing out the way they came in (as per the Solar Spell Mirage of Protective Shelter). Those authorized to set foot on the isle find that the mists give way to a sunny, pleasant land, full of lush rainforest, and an abundance of flora and fauna, most of it non-threatening.

The island has a number of demenses, most of which are in the process of being capped by those learning Manse Construction. The Institute itself harnesses the most powerful of the dragon nests, making it an level 5 Manse.

Training: Institute trainees are watched for a long time after they exalt to be certain that they have the right qualities to join. Given the brilliant and highly individualistic nature of their students, the Institute is the most selective of all the camps, and consequently has the fewest number of students (it also has the highest attrition rate, given the disasterous mistakes that can be made with sorcery and 1st Age tech). Many is the time, Institute recruiters sadly let a prospect go on their way because they never would have worked through the system the Sidereals carefully devised...

1st year Trainees are introduced to a broad curriculem. In addition to the usual Cult Indoctrination, they must master a dizzying array of knowledge, from history, botany, medicine, 1st-Age tech, and the fundamentals of sorcery. Most Twilights thrive under this kind of pressure, though a few breakdowns and addictions to alchemical enhancements are known to occur.

2nd year Adepts choose their Calling, and build a foundation of mastering it. 3rd year Graduates prove their mastery of their Calling in suitably grand style, often by piloting a hand-built mecha, single-handedly stopping a plague ravishing the lands, or successfully casting a Solar Circle-level Spell.

CHARACTER CREATION: Identical to the process outlined in _Cult of the Illuminated_, with the following exception: students gain, at no cost, the Charms Terrestrial Circle Sorcery, Spirit-Detecting Glance, Flawless Handiwork Method and Flawless Diagnosis Technique.

CALLINGS: Twilights dominate all the Institute Callings, but are by no means the only Caste to be found there. Zeniths and Eclipses often find themselves amongst the Doctors, while Dawns and Nights tend to congregate in the Wizards. A rare few other Castes wind up with the Technicians, but their temperments really aren't made out for such work...

Doctors: The Solars who have the most interaction with mortals, and who also help their fellow Solars gravely wounded in the duties of the Cult.

Calling Abilities: Lore, Medicine, Performance, Presence, Resistance

Calling Charms: Essence-Lending Method, Will-Bolstering Method, Ailment-Rectifying Method, Body-Mending Meditation, Touch of Blissful Release, Respect-Commanding Attitude, Unruly Mob Dispersing Rebuke, Harmonious Presence Meditation, Poison-Resisting Meditation, Illness-Resisting Meditation

Technicians: These labrats rarely leave the sanctuary of the island, and are liable to loudly complain about it every time they have to. Most want to set up their own HQ as similar to the Institute as they can make it as soon as possible. Despite their grumpy attitudes, they come through in the end, often working ceaselessly to complete construction, repairs or restoration of something or other for their fellow alumni to use in the field...

Calling Abilities: Craft, Lore, Endurance, Melee, Resistance

Calling Charms:Impurity-Hammering Blow, Object-Strengthening Touch, Body-Forging Travail, Armored Scout's Invigoration, Front-Line Warrior's Stamina, Excellent Strike, Retrieve the Fallen Weapon, Golden Essence Block, Whirlwind Armor-Donning Prana, Hauberk-Summoning Gesture

Wizards: As far from the doddering, closeted stereotype as it is possible to get, these sorcerers are the public face of the Institute as far as other supernatural beings are concerned. At the moment, most of their time is spent in the field, discovering lost sites and lore, breaching defenses that would make the hardiest Scavenger Lord blanch with terror, and bringing lost and rare items back for their Technician collegues to figure out, fix or make into something new. But once the three camps emerge to set their sights on Creation, the Wizards will be instrumental in reshaping it.

Calling Abilities: Awareness, Bureaucracy, Investigation, Lore, Occult,

Calling Charms: Sensory Acuity Prana, Surprise Anticipation Method, Frugal Merchant Method, Ten Magistrate Eyes, Integrity-Protecting Prana, Chaos-Repelling Pattern, All-Encompassing Sorcerer's Sight, Spirit-Cutting Attack, Spirit-Repelling Diagram, Celestial Circle Sorcery

Backgrounds: Most Backgrounds work the same for Institute Solars as for other Solars, save two: Artifact and Sorcery. To reflect the fact that the Institute specializes in these fields, simply multiply the values for each of these Backgrounds by 2 (ex: An Institute Solar with Artifact 3 and Sorcery 4 begins play with Artifacts with a combined rating no higher than 8, and 8 spells from either the Terrestrial or Celestial Circles).

Institute Personnel

Proserpus, Headmaster of the Institute: This relatively young Chosen of Secrets had to pull many strings and use up most of his carefully-gathered divine favors to get his school going, but he is convinced that it will repay his investment, with interest. While content to let his teaching staff handle other subjects, he always personally initiates all of the Solar students in each Circle of Sorcery himself; he is almost identical in their minds to the ritual sacrifices each made to progress in the science of magic.

Proserpus, while normally outwardly calm and sedate, would probably be regarded as stark raving mad even by the Gold Faction if they knew the extent of his plans. While his fellows are cautiously considering the possibility of revealing Solar Circle Sorcery and Sidereal Martial Arts to their Solar charges, he has long ago decided that they must do so, and cannot wait for the first student to prove herself ready for such instruction. Fortunately, he is a harsh and critical taskmaster, and no one Solar has yet impressed him enough to win this prize. But it is only a matter of time...

Gentle Vine, Physician Extraordinaire of the Blessed Hospice: Only one of the many non-humans lending their talents to the Institute, Gentle Vine is a Dragon King of the Raptok persuasion. Her students and patients alike joke that she lives up to her name, both in her easygoing manner and willingness to hold patients in her care who are clearly ready to leave. More of a den mother than a teacher, she endlessly frets and worries over the staff and students, especially when they play around on that dangerous Testing Range...

The only one she doesn't openly get along with is Imperious Diorite. He alone is capable of provoking her ire, and the two can be heard arguing loud and long. This is doubly surprising, then, for their passion is two-fold; the two are actually ardent lovers, an image which would...disturb most who learned of it! Gentle Vine is in possession of an Obsidian Sheath armor, in the rare event she'd actually be needed in combat (although she would only use it to protect herself while seeing to battlefield injuries).

Imperious Diorite, Forgemaster of the Armory: The head of the Division of Invention spends most of his time in the cavernous chambers beneath the school. Partly by choice, but mostly by necessity, as he is one of the few Mountain Folk found outside of the Realm. Several hundred years old, his gruff exterior conceals a genuine concern for his students, although he is certainly willing to let them risk themselves for their work. This willingness is at the root of all his arguments with his Dragon King lover, a fact which prevents their otherwise perfect union.

Ragara Solon, Keeper of the Auspicious Range: The overseer of the testing range is a former-Dynast turned Outcaste, and one of the foremost authorities on Manse design in the Realm. Proserpus was personally instrumental in convincing him to leave the Scarlet Dynasty, and although no one knows exactly how, he vouches for Solon's complete loyalty. And loyal he is, for Solon now fully realizes that it is only through the actions of a new Solar order can the lost glory of the 1st Age ever be regained. It is only this passion that allows him to swallow his demolished pride at seeing how quickly his students grasp theories and concepts it took him mortal lifetimes to learn, and how easily they transcend his understanding.

Solon is an elder Earth-aspected Dragon-Blooded, who possesses a Jade hand and leg, skin-mounted Hearthstones and a Dragon Armor of Earth. He uses the latter to reshape the testing grounds for each exam, and to shield himself from misfired experiments and failed tests. Since being hideously injured in an accident some time ago, his Dragon Armor was modified into a mobile life-support Device. As such, he is effectively trapped within it, and can only remove certain pieces of it for a short time.

Meko: Meko is one of the most potentially brilliant students of the Institute; but that potential seems to lie solely with theoretical work. When it comes to actually implementing her ideas in a practical manner, things go...wrong. The young Twilight has personally blown up workshops, caused entire Warstriders to fall apart, and once almost destroyed the complex with a rampant Tornado Cannon! Imperious Diorite is as impressed with her mind as he is frustrated by her clumsiness, Gentle Vine disapproves of her accidentally injuring her fellow students (even tho she spends more time hospitalized than anyone), Solon regards her as walking bad news and cringes at the sight of her (she IS responsible for his Jade Limbs, after all) and Proserpus' patience is growing thin...

And then, suddenly, her work improved. Her data corrected, her formulae perfected, her mechanics functioned smoothly. Most attributed it to increasing past life memory giving her that much-needed push, although she still has a reputation as a bit of a jinx. None know the truth...That Meko recently found a relic left over from the previous owner of the island facility, a Spirit Ring with the genius of a 1st Age Twilight sealed within. It is this aide that has been coaching Meko, allowing her to prove herself with borrowed wisdom. But little does she know that the Spirit Ring has an agenda of its own...That her graduate work will be to construct an invincible Orichalcum body, one that the now slightly-mad spirit can transfer itself into. And then take its revenge...

Ophidius: One of the few Casteless Lunars taken in by the Institute, Ophidius is also one of its top students in the art of Sorcery. In fact, his teachers do not even begin to suspect the true sharpness of his mind and ambition, as he has carefully concealed the true depth of his understanding behind a fawning mask of servitude. He was partnered with a Solar, but successfully cast a Threefold Binding of the Heart upon her, and now she waits upon his will. As will all of the Solars, once he learns all he can from his teachers and then slithers away with as much First Age lore and tech as he can manage. He just counts himself fortunate that none of his...experiments on the local wildlife and the occasional supernatural creature have so far gone unnoticed...

A tall, lanky figure, the Snake-totemed Lunar has become a self-taught expert in shapeshifting Charms, excelling at contorting his form for attack and defence, as well as being able to brew his own venow. He has further augmented his deadliness with his near-mastery of Snake Style Martial Arts and the Terrestrial and Celestial Circles of Sorcery. He is fascinated by accounts of techniques and devices that enable one to use the Charms of other Exalted, to store spells for near-instant use as well as methods that would allow him forbidden access to Solar Circle Sorcery. He even believes that he sees the way to fix his form without having to go to the No Moons to do it for him...


So far, so good, but I'd be interested (and am assuming) that the Tiger Warriors found here might be found in Gunzosha or Ashigaru armor - slowly giving up their lives for the work. Similarly, some color about how they're not all just sages (Twilights are not sages, they're thinker-doers) might be nice as well. Perhaps coloring it as the camp proposing the most direct path back to the glories of the first age? - GregLink

Greg, you really scared me at first: I was still editing when you posted, and the system wouldn't let me put up the rest of the article! Fortunately, I did what any good Twilight would, and figured out how to do it anyway...Thanks for the complements and suggestions. Can't believe I forgot about the mortal power armor, that's a necessity! I'll also take the idea about the camp's ultimate purpose in mind...Keep reading!^^-HandofOmega

With ExaltedSecond coming, the Technicians will have an extra calling ability freed up, as Resistance and Endurance will be combining. I encourage you to provide an alternate set for the ExaltedSecond system, simply because I'm trying to encourage people to have as much 'future-proofing' done as possible. -- GregLink, who has been using this Institute, and really likes the color it adds to his game

Greg, thanks for the comments! I'm glad you're getting some good milage out of the setting. I still intend to flesh out both my schools with staff characters, but I guess you've already done so. Any changes or additions you've made?-HandofOmega

To keep bugging poor HandofOmega, I've got another question: What's the canon minimum ability requirements for these guys? I'd guess steeper than the other schools, as they do have that nice Sorcery+Artifact bonus, that the other schools don't. Given that the other schools require 10 pts of skills, I'd assume these guys would require 15, as follows:

Occult 3 (obviously), Craft 2, Medicine 1, Lore 3, Linguistics 1 (Old Realm) {that's 10 so far}, "Endurance" 3 (to ExaltedSecond proof it), Bureaucracy 2

Also, as I mentioned earlier about ExaltedSecond proofing, where Technicians will lose an ability, I'd recommend changing their ability list to include Bureaucracy, to handle the teams of men and supplies necessary. That, or perhaps Tactics, as these guys probably spend way more time thinking about a battle than almost anyone else out there. --GregLink

Hm, I'm not so sure about ExaltedSecond proofing; I don't fancy the idea of having to provide two versions of every idea (PC already gives me a headache in that regard!). For the moment I'll stick to Original Flavor; hopefully, the new books will have an easy conversion process, if not then I'm sure many here will come up with some.

As to min ability reqs, I wanted to keep everything even and equal with the other schools, but since I already changed how a couple of the Backgrounds work, maybe it is worth upping some other stats, too...-HandofOmega