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  1. I wrote this as part of a larger alternate heresy project, but more than any of the astartes portions, I am most proud of my description of how Exodite culture functions and why. I honestly think I've fleshed them out better than any other attempt, GW included. I have some half-done 9E rules as well, if there's interest. Praise welcome; criticism extremely welcome. Index Xenos - Eldar Exodites Origins History The Exodite Worlds are peopled with the first Eldar to recognize the rot in the heart of their empire. They fled the heartlands well before the Fall and went back to nature, forsaking most technology with some exceptions for weapons and armor. Instead, they relied on the carefully-sculpted ecologies of the Maiden Worlds they settled, and the World Spirits, complex psychic constructs using a wraithbone-like mineraloid substrate that spreads through the entire planetary crust and coordinated both Eldar and wildlife. The biotechnology which created these ecosystems remains in place, but they placed it outside their ability to directly influence: only through the World Spirit's automatic coordination can it be engaged or changed, which it does when the world is under attack or the Exodites who live on it are collectively under severe strain. This invisible coordination served them very well, and quickly; it was less than a century before all traces of hedonism had vanished. A handful of millennia later, when the debauchery of the Empire exploded into the birth of Slaanesh, they were well insulated, both remote in space and in mindset. They were not, however, protected from the depredations of She Who Thirsts. As they discovered that the cycle of reincarnation had been broken, they decided to, carefully, consult the Craftworld kin who had apparently escaped the Fall - they treated them with suspicion, not fully trusting they were untainted, but recognized that they needed to borrow from their expertise. From this, they learned of the Infinity Circuits, and made changes to their World Spirits to perform the same role. Because the Spirit already suffused the planet and their populations remained small, the Exodites did not need spirit stones so long as they remained on their home worlds. This cemented the already established practice of remaining homebodies, not venturing offworld except for truly dire circumstances. During the human's Heresy War, many Exodite worlds (and other Eldar worlds) were brought into conflict with more violent strains of humanity and Chaos, and with aliens who were fleeing from either or both. This wreaked changes on Exodite culture, jarring them into relaxing both their isolationism and their attitude toward technology, due to a new recognition that while they could withdraw from the galaxy, the galaxy would not return the favor. They intermixed to a degree with the Craftworlds, leading to the adoption of certain Aspect Shrines, but the more impactful change was that they undertook active development of their ecosystems. A standout example was the creation of the Sky Dragons, great pterosaurs with wingspans twice as wide as an eldar is tall, who readily consent to riders flying them into battle and sniping at foes below. Even with the partial acceptance of advanced technology, the Exodites still strongly prefer to make use of beasts and biotechnology over wraithbone constructs or technological tools: the living equipment is still subject to auto-regulation by the World Spirit, which ensures that their technology will start to fail them if they start falling into sybaritism like the empire before them. It also perpetuates their cultural aesthetic, which helps them maintain their cultural identity separate from the Craftworlders; with their worlds taking a more activist stance, some distinctions are hard to draw and the Exodites feel strongly about keeping themselves true to the core of what defined them in the many centuries since the Fall. Homeworlds Exodite Worlds are sparsely populated. If you were to survey an Exodite world and divide the planet's surface into 1000-hectare tracts of surface, you would generally find that only a quarter of those tracts had any Eldar at all. Even within those populated tracts, the density would be roughly one individual per dozen hectares, roughly on par with the density seen on Feral Worlds. The overall planetary density is in human space seen only on Death Worlds, and this analogy is apt: an Exodite World is, to a great extent, an artificial Death World - at least, it certainly appears as one to any non-Eldar who attempt to explore it. Exodite Worlds are classed by the Eldar as Maiden Worlds, but they are _sharply_ distinct from others: Maiden Worlds are terraformed, and where Exodites have not introduced the World-Spirit-mediated aggressive ecosystem, these worlds are generally among the least-hostile, most-welcoming worlds in the galaxy, a fact which has led to numerous settlement attempts which were aggressively contested by the Eldar. An Exodite World is also terraformed, but specifically shaped to be one which constantly tests its inhabitants; only by the constant management of the World Spirit psycho-construct are these tests reduced from the constant mortal peril of a true Death World to merely difficult, constant problems that keep the Exodites on their toes without pushing them beyond what they can bear. These worlds always include dragons and a variety of hostile flora, but a great deal of variation is displayed within that. Qa'Sethlai is a terraformed gas dwarf, and clusters of floating terrain are traversed by sky dragons and hand-made Exodite gliders. Chassrace is a world of rivers and rainforests, both tropical and temperate, and its inhabitants do not farm, getting their sustenance entirely from hunting, gathering, and fishing from its bountiful waters. Kethtressil has an extensive cave system and many tribes live in those caves, as do several interesting varieties of dragon not commonly seen elsewhere. However, the most common appearance is rolling hills, sharp chasms, and a diverse selection of forests, and aspects of this appearance are seen even on the unusual worlds. At War Tactical Doctrine The Exodite tactica is primarily defined by the skills of the hunt. Speed, stealth, and superior senses are their practiced advantages, and so their methods of battle rely on raids, deployment from hiding, and forcing the battle onto terrain where there is ample cover. They use this cover as concealment themselves, and tempt the foe into trying to hide within it as well, a foolish ploy because the Exodites are nearly as skilled at denying the enemy protection from cover as they are at making best use of its protection for themselves. The preferred strategy is to draw the enemy into a quagmire of rough terrain, gain more from that quagmire than the foe can, and then crush them with a cavalry assault, bombardment from Sky Dragons or storm lizard artillery, or simply a crushing charge of large dragons. Where battle on open ground is necessary, they are capable of planting their own cover: several rapid-growing carnivorous plants can be seeded to an area and encouraged into growth in days by a Wayseer. If that is insufficient or impossible, an entire tribe may be fielded on dragonback, usually armed primarily for attacks at range, and both caracole tactics with continuous waves of fire and cycles of charge and false retreat will be used to bleed the enemy (usually being followed up by a charge of large dragons). When assaulting fortifications is necessary, sky dragons and dragon scouts will screen and bombard the enemy to cover an advance by the largest group of megasaurs and storm lizards that can be gathered; when this group has advanced close enough, the living tanks will charge the walls head-on and the scouts and raiders will follow up. Organization The basic unit of organization of the Exodites is the tribe, both at peace and in war (much like the Wild Rider clans of Saim-Hann). Tribes occasionally fight each other, and even alliances of tribes may take the field against each other, though the warfare is ritualized and low in serious casualties, with tribes rewarding feats that require skill at arms to complete but do not cause lasting harm to the rival tribe, such as stealing mounts, disarming enemies, and subduing them without drawing blood. Coordination between tribes when the world is under threat is freely given in most cases, but in less desperate circumstances, it generally requires the leadership of Wayseers, psykers who have practiced communion with the World Spirit and live at a remove from their tribes (either a social remove where they are treated as foreign while sharing living space, or physically living outside the tribe system). A tribe's forces will be led by a War-Prince, usually the same individual who leads hunts against powerful prey; this position is not gendered, despite the name, though male Eldar do hold it more often than female. When a large force is assembled, the Wayseers will nominate a High Prince, generally but not strictly selected from the War-Princes of the tribes present, and if a comfortable majority of War-Princes assent, this High Prince is considered the commander for all forces; Wayseers are not skilled directors of forces and so almost never take on this role. Tribal forces primarily are counted as the bands of Dragon Scouts and Dragon Knights who are accustomed to hunting together and fight as units on the battlefield. Warriors on foot are instead predominantly Exodites who are not _principally_ hunters in their daily life, and have weaker inter-tribe rivalries as a result; mixed units of infantry drawn from multiple tribes are still uncommon, but not as fiercely resisted as mixing cavalry units would be. Aspect Warriors, whether infantry or Bountful Knight, are outside the tribe system for the time they spend in the aspect shrine and will come to the aid of any tribe or war party; Exarchs or veteran Aspect Warriors are the most common High Princes who are not an attendant tribe's War-Prince. On the rare occasions when multiple Exodite worlds collaborate during war, the High Princes of each world will come to consensus on a leader, usually designated Autarch; often this is, like a Craftworld's Autarch, an individual with specific training in the Path of Command, which may even be an outsider who is from a Craftworld not fighting with them at that time. Individuals who have been a High Prince on more than one occasion will often make a pilgrimage to the most easily-accessible Craftworld to study the Path of Command for some years, and then bring the lessons back with them for future wars. Armory The most notable element of the Exodite 'armory' is their dragons; lizards ranging ranging from the size of dogs to the size of elephants, which are used as hunting companions, steeds, and for some of the largest herbivore walking weapons platforms. Dragons generally take the field along with an Exodite with a strong 'dragon-bond', an empathic gift for communicating with dragons (and other animals); particularly large groups or ferocious dragons require a Dragonspeaker, a skilled individual with a particularly strong dragon-bond who has trained in its use. Velisaurs are pack carnivores the size of wolves or large dogs, used as hunting companions either in ones and twos paired with Eldar hunters with a weak dragon-bond or as an entire pack alongside a skilled Dragonspeaker. Raptisaurs and Carnosaurs are pony- and horse-sized (respectively) carnivores, Raptisaurs more nimble and intelligent and Carnosaurs larger and more durable, who are the usual mounts for Dragon Scouts and Dragon Knights, respectively. (Both are considered worthy of the Bountiful Knight aspect shrine, and Exodite worlds with multiple Bountiful Knight shrines have at least one for each.) In the wild, Raptisaurs sometimes hunt alone but more often in pack of three or four; Carnosaurs are solitary but mated pairs are known to hunt together on occasion. These three types make up the primary cavalry and rapid skirmisher units, which are the bulk of most Exodite armies. Pterosaurs are rarer and were almost totally untamed before the Second Sundering, when the Sky Dragons, larger and more easily pressed into service, were bred or engineered from the existing pterosaurs; these perform a similar role but in the air. The larger dragons are correspondingly less common, but highly impactful where they see use. Megasaurs, also called Megadons, are the apex predator of most Exodite ecosystems, enormous fast-running hunters who stand four meters tall at the shoulder. Only in times of great strife do megasaurs consent to be ridden, and even then it requires a very talented Dragonspeaker; when they do, however, they are living shock-assault weapons, devastating enemy lines and crushing whole companies of infantry or bikers. They are not the largest of the dragons, however: the large herbivores range widely in bulk, but, as in the old Terran ecosystem, dwarf the predators in size. The smaller varities like the frill-headed Cerasaurs are docile and often used as beasts of burden, or in war as small, slow-moving artillery mounts. The largest, the 'storm lizards', are around six meters tall, twelve in length, and four to five meters wide, heavily plated and spiked. These are used to mount heavy artillery and fortress-like howdahs, and in close combat can match most tanks on a fair footing and make even the mighty Baneblade hesitate to engage them. Beyond the dragons, biotechnological weapons in common use include the hybrid-technology webcaster (a spider-like gun which can fire sticky webs for capture or be threaded with monofilament for execution), 'hyperseed' biological grenades which sprout into entangling, spiky vines in moments, and 'trap spitters', carnivorous, highly-poisonous plants which are immobile, but can grow in minutes and camouflage themselves almost undetectably until they strike. Hyperseeds are carried by many cavalry, but particularly heavily-used by the Sky Dragon corps and 'bomber birds': trained hunting hawks, properly avian falcon-like beasts which can be trained to fly forth with hyperseeds clutched in their talons, drop them on whatever non-native life they first see, and return to their falconers for reloading. Beyond biotechnology, the shuriken catapult and lasblaster are holdovers from the armament of the Eldar Empire's military, and the witchblade and singing spear common to Seers are in widespread use on Exodite worlds as well as Craftworlds. At Peace Culture To understand Exodite culture you must first understand the World Spirits. The World Spirit is a great psychically-active construct which coordinates the wildlife of its planet, designed to prevent its Exodites from falling into the corruption of the pre-Fall empire, but also not consign them to unrewarding, exhausting toil for the rest of their days. The World Spirit controls the ecosystem, normally making it mildly hostile in settled areas and extremely hostile outside those. But in times of need, it turns the the wildlife much more friendly, willing to defend the Eldar and ease their burdens if a talented Dragonspeaker attempts to tame them. In truly dire circumstances, the beasts will spontaneously attack threats to the Eldar residents without assistance, and be tameable by ordinary Eldar without any more psychic gifts than are possessed by all their race. By the masterful artisanry of the World Spirits, the worlds assist them in direct proportion to their need, helping only as needed and no more. This ensures that they never fail into fruitless toil, but also never into sybaritic hedonism such as produced the Fall. The ethos underlying this design, and the design's effects, are the primary shaping forces for Exodite culture. Exodites maintain the trappings of primitivism, and to an extent the reality of it; they must plow their own fields, scythe their own crops, and do by sweat and grit what the Craftworlders do via automatic mechanical means. But they also have a deceptively easy time taming the worlds' dragons as beasts of burden, hunting companions, etc.; the world literally conspires to assist them where needed. They therefore live as a real-life instantiation of the stereotypical, and usually fictional, noble savage: simple needs simply achieved, low strife inside tribes, strife between tribes highly ritualized, and no fear that they might descend into crushing poverty without serious moral/philosophical laxity that could be said to 'bring it upon themselves'. They do take steps to preserve this status quo, however: the most visible one is to rely heavily, in war and in peace, on living creatures and biotechnology that the World Spirit can affect, more than the traditional Eldar armaments like the shuriken catapult and prism cannon. Due to the modifications made after the Fall made the vulnerability of souls clear, Exodites are also extremely attached to their home worlds. After the Second Sundering they have been known to leave them, but the souls of their families and ancestors are bound into the very crust of the planet, their ghosts lingering at places on the surface important to them in life. And unlike a Craftworld's Infinity Circuit, there is no possibility of extracting them and moving them to another haven; the infinity circuit was retrofit into the World Spirits and they were never meant to be portable. Some Maiden Worlds not originally part of the initial exodus have been turned into Exodite worlds since the Second Sundering, and since they did not yet have World Spirits they have received newer version, ones which can more easily be extracted in case of serious problems, a design pioneered by Menimshemash after they had to evacuate their infinity circuit due to Tzeentchian corruption. This has made the new world inhabitants less attached to their homes, which some old Exodite families find unsettling; they therefore have substantially higher fractions of their residents drawn from the Craftworlds in their coils than would be naively expected. Relations It is not quite clear who the Exodites hate the most, of all species in the galaxy. It is a narrow contest between the daemons of Chaos, and the Dark Kin of Commorragh. One is the scourge that destroyed the Eldar Empire, and the other learned no lessons from the empire's Fall and seem determined to invite more of the same upon their race. Exodites grudgingly respect their skill at arms as demonstrating that while they have stayed debauched and vile and become moreso, they have not grown _soft_, but this barely tempers their disgust and loathing for the Dark City. Other Eldar they regard with mild distaste as soft and foolhardy, too willing to risk Slaanesh's grasp by making their lives easier. Even the Harlequins they regard this way, though mixed with a healthy dose of trepidation and awe at the living avatars of Cegorach and stewards of Eldar history. Orks and Necrons they regard as pests who can become serious threats if left unchecked; the most common sorties off their homeworlds that Exodites perform are reconaissance in force to find nascent WAAAGH!s and awakening Tomb Worlds and nip them in the bud. Humanity, as well as the T'au and their client species, are not given much thought except when they attempt to settle a world which already has a World Spirit, at which times they are hunted down and killed mercilessly, occasionally extending to whatever staging grounds they used for their colonization.
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