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How are Phoenix Lords made?


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It is strange that Karandras is the only third-generation Phoenix Lord (Asurmen the First and everybody else is Second)


I take there are strict requirements to turn a normal Eldar into one or replace a 'fallen' one such as Drazhar/Arha


Drazhar is Arha the same way Green Knight is Giles le Breton

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Note that I split this off the topic about Karandras "making" Drazhar.


I don't know if the "generation" terminology really applies to the Phoenix Lords except in the case of Karandras. Yes, Asurmen was the first of the Phoenix Lords, but, with the exception of Karandras, each Phoenix Lord is simply the first Exarch of their particular shrine.


Lore has evolved over the years, but here's the lore about the Phoenix Lords from the 2nd edition Codex: Eldar:



A few of the most ancient Exarchs have no shrines, for they have no Craftworld to call home. They wander from world to world, instinctively driven by war, attracted by intuitive power to places of great danger and need. During moments of desperation they appear, sometimes just one but often several depending upon the perils faced. Using the Eldar Webway they move from Craftworld to Craftworld and from planet to planet, following in the path of the Bloody-handed God.


These Exarchs are known as the Phoenix Lords and they are great heroes amongst the Eldar race. Their names are well known throughout the Craftworlds, and their deeds form part of the legends of the Eldar. No-one knows exactly how many Phoenix Lords there are, for some are seen but rarely, while others disappear for millennia only to reappear suddenly and unexpectedly. Some have undoubtedly perished far away, their suits lying upon some hostile world awaiting discovery by some predestined Aspect Warrior doomed to don the armour and become the ancient hero for another cycle of his existence.


Some of the Phoenix Lords are as old as the Fall. They were heroes during the cataclysm, and were the first to bear the spirit stones of the Warrior Aspects. Perhaps they never reached the Craftworlds and so never founded their own shrines as others did, or maybe their shrines have since been destroyed along with their Craftworlds. Whatever their past they are the most fearsome of all Exarchs, and the most powerful warriors of all the Eldar.


Basically, the Phoenix Lords are just super Exarchs. Like the Exarchs, they are a dominant personality with numerous other personalities subsumed within. The dominant personality is generally the original hero. The gestalt has developed into the ultimate expression of their shrine.


There are no "strict requirements" to becoming an Exarch or a Phoenix Lord. The general process is that both develop when an Aspect Warrior dons the suit of the Exarch/Phoenix Lord, becoming the Exarch/Phoenix Lord.


Here's an excerpt from the 2nd edition Codex: Eldar about the Exarchs:



...An Eldar who is lost upon the Path of the Warrior is called an Exarch. Such a fate does not befall an Aspect Warrior quickly, but the repeated exhilaration of battle can act like a dangerous drug upon a warrior's psyche. Aspect Warriors learn how to control their warrior-selves, putting on and casting aside their warrior-self as they don or discard their ritual costumes. An Aspect Warrior who becomes an Exarch loses this ability to dissociate himself. This has serious consequences because upon his death an Exarch's soul cannot be freed into the infinity circuit, for its only impulse is to wage war; all other feelings are subordinated to that single deadly desire.


When an Aspect Warrior becomes an Exarch he adopts an armoured suit from his shrine. Each shrine preserves the suits of its dead Exarchs, often the very suits worn by the shrine's founders. These suits are usually extremely elaborate and ancient. Once put on the suit is never removed and becomes a permanent part of the Eldar, its psycho-plastic form meshing with his tissues. If slain the warrior's costume will be found to be empty, the body having long since been consumed within the suit itself. Exarch suits are studded with the spirit stones of all the Eldar who have ever worn the suit. Their spirits continue to circulate through the psycho-supportive environment of the suit, like a miniature version of the infinity circuit of the Craftworld. It is the presence of this spirit-pool of raw psychic energy that gives the suit and warrior (for the two are indistinguishable) their special warrior powers.


Once he has become an Exarch a warrior is known by the ancient name associated with his armoured suit. The warrior's personality flows into the spirit-pool of the suit and is co-joined with the personalities of all the other Eldar who have ever worn it. Their lives and experiences meld with his own, and his name is added to the long list that constitutes the suit's full title. As a rule it is the first Exarch whose name alone denotes the warrior within, and whose personality remains strongest within the spirit-pool. Thus an Aspect Warrior who becomes an Exarch is reborn as an ancient warrior hero. His spirit breathes life into the suit once more, and the Exarch lives again, empowered by the reinvigorated spirit-pool.


As players, we are familiar with those Exarchs for which GW/FW have provided models/rules:

  • Asurmen (Dire Avengers)
  • Jain Zar (Howling Banshees)
  • Karandras and Arhra (Striking Scorpions)
  • Fuegan (Fire Dragons)
  • Baharroth (Swooping Hawks)
  • Maugan-Ra (Dark Reapers)
  • Irillyth (Shadow Spectres)


Then there are those that we haven't seen or which are unknown:

  • According to the Iyanden supplement, the Phoenix Lord of the Shining Spears Aspect is Drastanta, who is currently among the missing.
  • According to the novel Shadow Point, the Phoenix Lord of the Eagle Pilots Aspect is Amon Karakht.
  • The Phoenix Lord of the Warp Spiders is currently unknown.
  • The Crystal Dragons and Ebon Talons are Aspects mentioned in the novel Path of the Warrior, but their Phoenix Lord isn't named.
  • The Slicing Orbs of Zandros are an Aspect that are unique to Craftworld Zandros, but we don't know anything about them or their Phoenix Lord.
  • And all of the other less common Aspects and their Exarchs/Phoenix Lords are unknown to us.


I'm going to backtrack on one thing. We don't know for certain that each Phoenix Lord is simply the first/most powerful Exarch of their Shrine. It's possible that some [unknown] Phoenix Lords are additional (within their Shrine). These might be ancient Exarchs who came after the first Phoenix Lord and whose abilities rival their forebear. The ready example here is how Karandras replaced Ahra. Under this possibility (which is purely speculative, I'll admit), there might be other Dire Avengers Exarchs who have ascended to a level where they might be considered Phoenix Lords, without supplanting Asurmen. Moreover, we don't know that all Aspects have actually developed Exarchs who have become Phoenix Lords. We know of the major Shrines that are common to all/most Craftworlds, as well as a few minor ones. There are many smaller Shrines, though. Some of these may not have had an Exarch reach the Phoenix Lord level. Lastly, it's possible that some Phoenix Lords have developed outside of the normal Shrine concept. The lore I cited above mentions how some Phoenix Lords were great heroes during the Fall, and that some never founded Shrines of their own. These would be unique heroes outside of the Shrine structure, possibly resembling Autarchs in terms of their variation, but functioning like the Exarchs/Phoenix Lords.


Keep in mind that lore has evolved, so all of this is subject to any changes that have occurred. While some things have shifted a little over the years, I think that most of what I've quoted/cited above remains fairly intact. I'll look through the more recent codices, however, to see if anything above is now inaccurate due to lore updates.

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I’m halfway through the Jain Zar novel and she comes off as a very old school pit fighter that ‘saves’ Asurmen. He returns the favour and while the novel isn’t amazing it does give some interesting information on that sort of stuff. No spoilers but there are many passages about her path to becoming Jain Zar. 

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There does seem to be something else going on beyond just age, given the differences between how their "soul networks" work. For Exarchs, any new wearer is the "dominant" one, just assisted by the souls of previous wearers. It's only in the Phoenix Lords where we see the new wearer become completely subsumed by the original soul, "reincarnating" the original rather than simply ritualistically taking on the same name.

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My headcanon explanation for this issue is that there's actually two classifications of Phoenix Lord. There are the "basic" ones, as described in 2nd Ed, that are basically just "super Exarchs", but the special characters we see aren't just Phoenix Lords, but the Asuryata. These are the pupils of Asurmen himself, blessed by Asuryan/Khaine. Other Aspects have been created since, and their founders may achieve the status to be deemed a Phoenix Lord, but they won't be able to become an Asuryata.

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My headcanon explanation for this issue is that there's actually two classifications of Phoenix Lord. There are the "basic" ones, as described in 2nd Ed, that are basically just "super Exarchs", but the special characters we see aren't just Phoenix Lords, but the Asuryata. These are the pupils of Asurmen himself, blessed by Asuryan/Khaine. Other Aspects have been created since, and their founders may achieve the status to be deemed a Phoenix Lord, but they won't be able to become an Asuryata.

From that, I would just classify the Asurya as a subset of the phoenix lords rather than as a separate group. The Asurya aren't necessarily "better" than the other phoenix lords (aside from Asurmen being avowed as the greatest of the phoenix lords in the official lore).

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Or that GW simply hasn't taken the time to develop them and so hasn't committed to them. Similarly, Cawl was never mentioned until GW needed him for the lore progression. GW has given information that the non-Asurya Phoenix Lords do exist so that, if they ever need them, they can introduce them. If that ever happens, they will be as potent as GW needs them to be, whether on par with the Asurya or at some other level (greater or lesser). It's not for us to assert anything regarding this. All we know is that they exist because GW has told us that they do.


(I brought the following over from the Thoughts on minor/additional Aspects discussion.)


More to the point is the fan theory, with prodding from GW, that Drazhar might be Arhra. He is on par with the Phoenix Lords in terms of his rules - different, but comparable. Granted, he was bested by a Phoenix Lord, but the overall battle was back and forth. In the end, the lore shows that his continued existence operates in much the same manner as the Exarchs/Phoenix Lords. It's entirely possible that we do have another "Phoenix Lord" in Drazhar. Given, if he is Ahra then he is one of the Asurya. However, this emphasizes that Karandras is not one of the Asurya. He was one of Arhra's disciples, not Asurmen's.


Also, some other unidentified Phoenix Lords may be Asurya, but they either didn't found shrines or their shrines fell into extinction (perhaps if/when the craftworlds upon which they were located fell, as described in the lore I cited previously).


All of this reinforces that our lack of information about these theoretical Phoenix Lords isn't sufficient for us to make any assertions about them. The oldest, but by no means the greatest, are the ones we know from the time of the Fall [according to GW]. Karandras, a "later" Phoenix Lord, was the equal of one of the Asurya. This demonstrates that the Asurya aren't necessarily inherently superior to their younger counterparts.

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Do we actually have confirmation that Karandras was a student of Ahra? I swear I read somewhere that he was also under Asurmen's tutelage, they just both "chose" the Scorpion as their Aspect, but interpreted it differently. They definitely both had their own students by the time Karandras held his coup. Of course, I could just be horribly wrong and making stuff up.


I've already posted my views on Ahra/Drazhar elsewhere on here. 

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Hyperbole alert!


Codex: Craftworlds (7th Edition) said:


Mystery clings tightly to the legend of Karandras, the Shadow Hunter. Through the gloom of history, his terrible deeds and hidden secrets can only be glimpsed. The most enigmatic of the Phoenix Lords, Karandras' past remains a sea of half truths from which the Striking Scorpions were born.


Perhaps the most ominous stories associated with this Aspect are those concerning Karandras' predecessor, Arhra, Father of Scorpions. The legends tell that Arhra succumbed to the darkness in his soul, and now burns with the black light of Chaos. Karandras, bravest and most cunning of his shrine, finally hunted down his old teacher within the cursed ruins of Zandros. There, Karandras duelled his former mentor for seventeen gruelling days. The two fought to a standstill before Karandras melted into a patch of shadow and disappeared. In doing so, he drove Arhra into a kill frenzy that saw him slaughter his own minions and damn himself even further.



Admittedly, I haven't read the book about Asurmen, so there may be something in there that backs up your point.

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We've addressed the answer to Moonreaper666's initial question - the basic process by which a regular Aeldari becomes an Exarch. However, the official lore has a significant gap:


How did the Aeldari personalities that first became Exarchs (including the Phoenix Lords) become Exarchs? Presumably, each progressed over time, developing mastery over unusual warrior abilities until they ascended to the Exarch level. The first Exarchs, after all, couldn't don suits and assume personalities that didn't exist yet. For some, the progression may have been more rapid than for others.


The corollary of this is that it should be possible for modern Aeldari to develop into Exarchs without having to choose an Exarch suit.


Another logical corollary of this is that it should be possible for "regular" Exarchs to progress over time, developing more and more abilities until they rival the Phoenix Lords. This may not be possible to all Exarchs as there may be limits to the potential of each individual. However, it seems highly unlikely that the only Aeldari with the potential to become Phoenix Lords have already done so.


Under the current rules, there are three levels of Exarch:

  • "Basic" Exarch with 1 Warrior Power
  • "Exemplar" Exarch with 2 Warrior Powers
  • Phoenix Lord (currently only the named characters, though the lore allows for others)


(Note that the names in quotation marks are made up for the sake of discussion - I'm not suggesting that these are the actual names for these levels. The "Exemplar" name was chosen simply because the stratagems in Psychic Awakening: Phoenix Rising are called "Exemplar of the X Shrine.")


Curiously, the "Exemplar" level is problematic. Where the rules allow a "basic" Exarch to have any one of seven different warrior powers available to the Exarchs of each shrine, the "exemplar" must have the standard warrior power (the one given in Codex: Craftworlds) and one other. One might argue that the standard warrior power is the core power for the shrine - the power that really defines what true devotion to that Aspect really develops. There might be some merit in that argument. However, some might argue that if that were the case, all Exarchs of that Aspect should have that power and the "exemplar" should simply have a second power. A counter argument might be that they simply develop mastery of that core power later, after they've mastered some additional power.


For the sake of argument, I'll go with the theory that all Exarchs of a given shrine will develop the standard ability, but that some might develop an additional ability first.


More importantly, though, is the bridge between the "exemplar" level and the Phoenix Lord level. The differences between an "exemplar" and a Phoenix Lord are pronounced - the Phoenix Lords generally enjoy multiple stats that are enhanced, an enhanced version of the standard ability for their shrine, and one to three additional abilities, not to mention unique ancient wargear.


Personally, I'd love it if GW allowed us to represent more variations in the Exarch progression, starting with the standard Exarchs and allowing up to the Phoenix Lord level; not just the named Phoenix Lords - the Asurya - but also allowing for later Phoenix Lords from within a shrine. We've seen GW implement this with Karandras replacing Arhra as the Phoenix Lord of the Striking Scorpions. Even if we consider Karandras and the other Asurya to be exceptional, reaching levels that other Exarchs/Phoenix Lords might not reach, the current Exarchs don't quite come near enough to accurately represent what the lore supports.


I could see five levels:

  • "Lesser" Exarch - has one warrior power
  • "Greater" Exarch - has one warrior power and either a second warrior power or a stat line enhancement
  • "Exemplar" Exarch - has two warrior powers and a stat line enhancement
  • "Ancient" Exarch - has two warrior powers and a stat line enhancement, and either a third warrior power or a second stat line enhancement
  • Phoenix Lord - has three warrior powers and two stat line enhancements


An element of this would be that each of the warrior powers would have two levels - a basic level and an enhanced level. So a second/third warrior power might simply be the enhanced version of a basic warrior power that they already have.


An additional element of the "Ancient" and Phoenix Lord levels is that the Exarch might also take up to one wargear enhancement. The easy answer here is that weapons would have something akin to master-crafting, but this isn't always possible. Generally, I don't think that they should have new weapon/wargear types, but that they should have a slightly better version of something already available to the Exarchs of their Aspect.


The cost to advance an Exarch to each level would be steep, with the Phoenix Lord level rivalling the named Phoenix Lords in cost without quite equaling them in potency. The advantage players could derive from this, though, would be that they could tailor their custom Phoenix Lord to their play/army style rather than being stuck with the "stock" Phoenix Lords.


I don't see any way that GW would ever really do this because it breaks the simplicity they seem to be trying to implement with the codices. It would be nice to see if this concept could be developed as a homegrown rule, though. Perhaps I'll take the idea up in that forum.


For now, I think that GW might allow for the higher level Exarchs that I've posited via the vehicle of special characters - if they ever need to create an Exarch that is more potent than the current "exemplar" level, they'll just create a named special character for that purpose rather than giving us a rules construct to create our own.


And now for something completely different...


Thinking about how new Warrior Aspects are created, and also going back to the development of the heroes of old into the Phoenix Lords, I wonder if the Autarchs give us a model for how things might happen.


Unlike the Exarchs, who lose themselves upon the Warrior Path, the Autarchs are on the Path of Command. Each Autarch has also previously followed multiple Aspects of the Path of the Warrior.


Would it be possible for an Aeldari to study one or more Aspects and combine elements of each, and potentially their own improvisations or concepts of warfare that aren't elements of an existing Aspect, to create their own Aspect? These new Aspects might be variations on a theme, or branches from existing Aspects*. These heroes might dedicate themselves to their newly developed Aspect, losing themselves on the Path of the Warrior instead of applying their eccentric/variant skills to the Path of Command. Such heroes might then create their own shrines to their newly-developed Aspect, potentially becoming Exarchs (and potentially becoming the Phoenix Lord of their Aspect).


* This is reminiscent of how Karandras, in replacing Arhra as Phoenix Lord of the Striking Scorpions, changed the Striking Scorpions Aspect, imposing his stealthiness upon the teachings of the Aspect (presumably replacing some more vicious teachings that came from Arhra's darker nature).


This line of thought blurs the lines with the Thoughts on minor/additional Aspects topic.

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The first Exarchs didn't need a suit, they just became unable to take the psychological "war-mask" off. The suit doesn't seem to be a requirement, only part of a tradition. As you've said, it should be possible, theoretically, for an average Fire Dragon to be just as trapped as their Exarch, before they undergo the ritual to take a suit of their own. Speaking of, there's got to be some way for new Exarch suits to be formed. It could just be that a standard suit might change after the initial wearer becomes a "suitless Exarch", slowly becoming more ornate over time as newer Exarchs take that suit as their own upon "ascension".


And this is why the older description of a Phoenix Lord as "just" a super-Exarch is difficult. The Phoenix Lords aren't just stronger, there appears to be some sort of metaphysical distinction, from the fact that an Eldar who puts on the suit of their standard Exarch retains his personality, he just ritually takes on the name of the first wearer, and becomes part of a gestalt soul-network, but is still the dominant personality. They're still "them". With all Phoenix Lords we've been shown, so again we cannot assume this doesn't just go for the Asuryata, when you put on their mask you cease to exist as an individual, with the only conscious spirit being the initial personality.



EDIT: I do like the concept of the "divergent Exarchs", making the Aspects akin to religious denominations all worshiping Khaine. Sure, they might all agree that Khaine is the Destroyer/Dragon, and so be Fire Dragons, and Feugan was the founder of the Aspect, but as time goes on Shrines begin interpreting this Aspect a different way, until you get a difference as large as the interpretations of Khaine-as-Scorpion between Ahra and Karandras. 

When you get down to it, the Aspect Warriors are religious sects acting on the will of their god. Who interprets that? The priests, in this case the Exarchs/Phoenix Lords. If one "church" is separated for a really long time, it only makes sense that they start seeing things a little differently than their more "orthodox" followers elsewhere.

Edited by Lord_Caerolion
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And this is why the older description of a Phoenix Lord as "just" a super-Exarch is difficult. The Phoenix Lords aren't just stronger, there appears to be some sort of metaphysical distinction, from the fact that an Eldar who puts on the suit of their standard Exarch retains his personality, he just ritually takes on the name of the first wearer, and becomes part of a gestalt soul-network, but is still the dominant personality. They're still "them". With all Phoenix Lords we've been shown, so again we cannot assume this doesn't just go for the Asuryata, when you put on their mask you cease to exist as an individual, with the only conscious spirit being the initial personality.

That's contradictory to what some of the lore says. The second quote in Brother Tyler's first post clearly says that the first Exarch personality is dominant. That quote was from 2nd edition. More recent lore doesn't repeat that, but it doesn't contradict it, either. The 2012 (6th edition) Codex: Eldar says that an Exarch "assumes the sacred name associated with this suit, and his spirit mingles with those of the Eldar who have borne it since the shrine's inception. It is the presence of the spirit-pool of raw psychic energy that gives the suit and warrior - for the two are indistinguishable - their special warrior powers." Moreover, the codices all identify the phoenix lords as the most ancient of the exarchs. Yes, the Asurya* are clearly better than other exarchs, but that may be nothing more than a matter of them having reached a certain level rather than them being inherently superior (i.e., a regular exarch could potentially reach a level where they rival the Asurya).


I think that the problem/confusion stems from portrayals of the exarchs that don't conform to the information given in the codices, where the exarch appears to be an individual that taps in to the gestalt consciousness rather than intermingling with it and being dominated by the first. Other official examples that might sow confusion stem from the old lore about exarchs that moved from shrine to shrine (I think that was in the 2nd edition codex, too, but I'll have to dig around) as well as the Visarch. There are others, too, where the exarch hasn't operated in the way described as the norm. This may, perhaps, mean that there is the norm (first exarch dominates) and there are exceptions (exarchs that move from shrine to shrine, exarchs that can leave the Warrior Path, exarchs where some personality other than the first dominates, etc.).




* You keep saying "Asuryata" when you are referring to the Asurya. The Asurya are the named phoenix lords whereas the Asuryata is an epic legend about the phoenix lords.

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In "Path of the Warrior," the main character Korlandril becomes a Scorpion Exarch. At first he retains his sense of self but is able to converse with all the previous wearers of his suit but loses himself bit by bit until he surrenders completely. He ceases to be Korlandril and becomes Morlaniath...and Korlandril becomes just another whisper in the back of Morlaniath's mind.


When Morlaniath witnesses Karandras felled by Space Marines, he approaches the rent armor of the Phoenix Lord. The souls of Morlaniath the Exarch are drawn into Karandras' armor and reanimate him - but the personality is not Morlaniath or Korlandril and any other previous Exarch. There is only Karandras.

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I don’t want to write a novel of an answer but is it has anybody else read Jain Zar?


im about halfway through it and the writing is muddy at times so I’m not entirely clear about her origin, but there is a reference to her not being alive. A scene with a big Dark Eldar personality calls her out as being undead. 

I know the power must in part come from the spirit stones but it what degree and is it unique to her?


I’ll hopefully finish the book soon but she definitely starts out as mortal and Asurmen takes her under his wing. 

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I haven't read the book, but I suspect that it is as you said. The personality and animus of Jain Zar, and of all the Phoenix Lords (and other Exarchs after a while), is that of the original entity (Jain Zar in this case) and derives from the spiritstone and not from a living entity within the armour. The living Aeldari that donned the armour provides physical motive force, but after a time, that physical body becomes dust (per the old lore). Despite the eventual condition of the body within, the Exarch continues to function until slain in combat. Afterwards, the Exarch will arise again when another dons the armour. That cycle could easily be perceived as a form of "undead" existence.


The cycle shares aspects with the ghost warriors, whose spirits, also housed in spiritstones, animate wraithbone constructs.

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In "Path of the Warrior," the main character Korlandril becomes a Scorpion Exarch. At first he retains his sense of self but is able to converse with all the previous wearers of his suit but loses himself bit by bit until he surrenders completely. He ceases to be Korlandril and becomes Morlaniath...and Korlandril becomes just another whisper in the back of Morlaniath's mind.


When Morlaniath witnesses Karandras felled by Space Marines, he approaches the rent armor of the Phoenix Lord. The souls of Morlaniath the Exarch are drawn into Karandras' armor and reanimate him - but the personality is not Morlaniath or Korlandril and any other previous Exarch. There is only Karandras.


Thanks, it's been ages since I've read that book. In any case, with a "standard" Exarch each wearer remains a distinct voice, and with the Phoenix Lords they are instantly subsumed into the original soul. 


Actually, this raises the question, if a Phoenix Lord is "resurrected" by an Exarch, does that suit now have to "start over", as it were, given the souls are now part of the Phoenix Lord? Or would it just "kill" the Exarch, but leave their souls inside to speak to that suits next wearer? Path of the Warrior seems to indicate the former.


And yes, Ioldanach, I've accidentally been calling the Asurya the name of the poem about them. For some reason, I had it in my head that it was Asurya for singular, Asuryata for multiple. That's what I get for posting from work.

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  • 2 years later...

I’m dusting this discussion off because I’ve been referring to it repeatedly as I push a side project forward (you’ll see that soon in the Homegrown Rules forum). My musings have led to another aspect of this discussion.


Official lore gives us certain facts:

  • The Phoenix Lords are Exarchs.
  • Those that take the suits of the Exarchs eventually find their personalities assumed within the gestalt personality, dominated by the first Exarch that wore the suit (and whose identity is associated with the suit). In the case of the Phoenix Lords, this transition is immediate. In the case of lesser Exarchs, the transition takes time. Nevertheless, the dominant personality of all Exarch suits is that of the first wearer and that personality eventually takes over.
  • The first Exarchs, including the Phoenix Lords, didn’t have suits and other identities to assume – they developed into the Exarchs over time. Whether this was one individual developing into an Exarch or multiple individuals wearing the same suit over time is unknown (and both might be possible). Regardless, since that development from normal Asuryani [Aspect Warrior] into Exarch was possible in the beginning, there’s nothing to say that it isn’t possible now (i.e., new Exarch identities are possible).


My side project takes the idea I postulated here and re-works it for 8th edition – the progression of Exarchs up to the level of the Phoenix Lords. The concept I was tackling was how the Exarchs progress in power, so I thought I’d throw the issue out to others for their input. Here’s what I came up with…


For clarity, I’m differentiating between the Exarch suit and the wearer. The suit refers to the identity of the Exarch armour – named for the first Exarch that wore the suit, but a gestalt identity composed of all the spirits of those that have worn the suit over time. The suit confers abilities developed over lifetimes. The wearer is the living Asuryani that dons an Exarch suit, becoming the Exarch. They don’t [typically] bring any special abilities beyond those developed normally while following the Path of the Warrior, but gain Exarch abilities as a result of wearing the suit.


The main issue I’ve been tackling is how the progression in abilities takes place. In this, I also see two different layers. One of these is based on the assumption that a suit has a true ability level that is the culmination of all of the memories and spirits of the Asuryani that have worn the suit over the years. My assumption is that a new Exarch doesn’t simply don an Exarch suit and instantly have access to all of the abilities of the suit. Instead, it takes time for the Exarch to gain access to all of their abilities, and this is probably tied to the balance in the personalities. Access to the suit’s abilities depends upon the dominance of the original Exarch – as long as the new Exarch personality remains separate, they have fewer abilities. More and more abilities are gained as the dominant (first) personality takes over. Once the new Exarch personality is completely subsumed within the gestalt and the first Exarch personality assumes full control, the Exarch will have full access to the abilities of the suit and its original personality. The second part of this is how long it takes an Exarch (suit) to advance, becoming more and more potent until they might rival the Phoenix Lords. My assumption is that the first progression (related to personality dominance) can take place faster than the second, but will ultimately depend upon the length of time it takes the primary Exarch personality of the suit to achieve dominance over the personality of the new Exarch wearer. The second, I think, probably takes much longer, though I don’t know of any evidence by which we might identify a specific timeline or milestones. My personal belief is that the first progression might take only a matter of years, faster of slower depending upon the personalities involved as well as how active they are in war; while the second progression might be measured in centuries or millennia.


By way of example, let’s say that Yrsiniel of Biel-Tan, a Dire Avenger of the Knights Azure shrine, becomes trapped on the Path of the Warrior. He adopts an ancient suit from the Knights Azure shrine and becomes known by the name and original personality of that ancient suit, an ancient Asuryani warrior named Sal’Nevao who was trained by Asurmen. Though the personalities of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of previous individuals have also been absorbed into the personality of the suit, the Exarch who wears the suit is known by Sal’Nevao’s title. Having thousands of years of experience, Sal’Nevao has reached a level that nearly rivals that of the Phoenix Lords. While some of those abilities may have been developed by the original Sal’Nevao, many were developed by successors who assumed the Sal’Nevao identity later. As long as Yrsiniel’s personality remains dominant, however, the young Exarch doesn’t have access to all of the abilities and skills that Sal’Nevao and his successor have developed over the millennia. As the personality of Yrsiniel diminishes and Sal’Nevao’s personality comes to the fore, however, more and more of the gestalt Sal’Nevao abilities become available to the Exarch. Once the original Sal’Nevao identity takes full control and the Yrsiniel personality has been absorbed within the identity, Sal’Nevao’s full abilities become available to the Exarch. The timeframe for this to happen is unknown, and it might not be consistent. If Yrsiniel has a strong personality or resists Sal’Nevao’s dominance, it might take quite some time. Over time, however, Sal’Nevao’s personality will eventually come to dominate and the Exarch will be able to tap into more and more of Sal’Nevao’s abilities. Conversely, Yrsiniel might quickly give in to Sal’Nevao’s personality, becoming Sal’Nevao and gaining all of the ancient Exarch’s abilities much more quickly. The Phoenix Lords, the most powerful of the Exarchs, appear to operate in this manner, with a “resurrected” Phoenix Lord arising with full potency when a new Asuryani dons their armour/spirit stone.


Contrast this with a completely new Exarch, someone transitioning from an Aspect Warrior into an Exarch without adopting a suit and other personality. Instead, these warriors become Exarchs organically, becoming trapped on the Path of the Warrior and developing abilities on their own. Whether or not this still happens is unknown, but since all the Exarchs, including the Phoenix Lords, developed in this way it must still be at least possible. Since these Exarchs haven’t developed the abilities of their more ancient counterparts and aren’t able to tap into those abilities via another’s spirit stone, it will take them time to advance. As with the Phoenix Lords, these new Exarchs might have the potential to develop into the most potent of Asuryani warriors, but it will take them time. Some might progress faster than others. Some might “die” before they advance far as Exarchs, but their suits and identities will be taken up by others and they will continue to develop powers and abilities as centuries and millennia of successors join the gestalt Exarch personality.


In both cases, the gap between a “normal” Exarch and a Phoenix Lord is significant, even when the upgraded Exarchs are taken into account. The Phoenix Rising expansion for 7th edition gave us an interesting mechanism in warrior powers that might be developed by the Exarchs of the different shrines. The 8th edition Codex: Aeldari, modified that concept somewhat, but preserved it in that more potent Exarchs are possible [to a Battle-forged ASURYANI army]. Even those advanced Exarchs are quite weak compared to their Phoenix Lord counterparts, though. It doesn’t seem likely that the Phoenix Lords jumped from the slightly enhanced Exarchs that are possible under the rules to the august levels they enjoy as the chosen of Khaine. It seems much more likely that the progression along the path of the Exarch sees a gradual advancement in all areas:

  • Exarch powers
  • Battle experience
  • Abilities (stat line)
  • Weapons and wargear


Granted, all factions in the game have certain units that demonstrate a logical progression. The most readily seen progression is in the Adeptus Astartes, with the progression from Scout to Battle-Brother (pick your non-Veteran unit) to Veteran (pick your Veteran unit) to [Veteran] Sergeant to Lieutenant to Captain to Chapter Master. The gulf between the “normal” Exarchs and the pinnacle members of that group, the Phoenix Lords, is enormous, however. Based on all of the lore through the years, which has remained remarkably consistent since 1st edition, there could be much better representation of Exarchs of varying ability levels.


This transition and progression might also serve as an explanation for a perceived discrepancy in the lore. In the original lore, an Exarch never removed their suit. When they were eventually killed, all that would be found within was dust. Later lore either retconned or ignored that lore, giving us Exarchs that could leave the Path of the Warrior (e.g., Mauryon and the Visarch). The prevailing theory (based on Jes Goodwin’s art, so there’s a strong foundation) is that the Exarchs that don’t have to wear masks are those that are sufficiently advanced that they don’t need to wear the physical mask to assume their warrior identity. Perhaps it’s the least experienced Exarchs that don’t have to wear masks while those for whom the dominant personality has taken control cannot remove their masks. The least experienced Exarchs are still sufficiently trapped upon the Path of the Warrior that they can never leave it, but since the personality of their physical body retains control, they are able to function sans helmet. Meanwhile, those Exarchs that have become their dominant personalities are now not only controlled psychologically by those personalities, but the animus of those personalities also controls them physically, hence allowing their bodies to become dust while remaining functional. In this way, Mauryon and the Visarch may have donned Exarch suits, but they still retained sufficient control and personality dominance that they were able to abandon those suits under extreme circumstances (Mauryon becoming an Autarch and the Visarch abandoning the Dire Avengers and Biel-Tan to follow she who would become known as Yvraine).


As I said, though, the helmet theory I’ve posited contradicts the common interpretation of Jes Goodwin’s notes from his sketchbook. Here’s what his note says (about the Dire Avenger Exarch, but presumably applying to all shrines):


Exarch who is so far along his path that he can assume identity with symbolic markings rather than mask.

(I’ve used normal capitalization where the note was in all caps.)


The conventional interpretation of that note, and I happen to agree with it, is that the note implies that only the most advanced Exarchs can assume their warrior identity without the mask. The sketchbook shows many instances of warrior face paint that is worn under the mask (and this face paint is worn by both Exarchs and regular Aspect Warriors); and the lore going way back to 1st edition when the Aeldari as we now know them were first presented was that the warriors of the craftworlds, especially those of the Aspect Warrior shrines, relied heavily on their warrior masks as they assumed their warrior identities. The theory I’m presenting isn’t meant to say that Jes Goodwin is wrong (I’m not stupid enough to do that), but that perhaps our interpretation is wrong. Since the Aspect Warriors rely on their masks in assuming their warrior identity, perhaps being “so far along [their] path” is in relation to other Aspect Warriors, with all new Exarchs being able to do this because they are already trapped on the path of the warrior and don’t need the ritual mask to transition into their warrior self. At some point, however, they lose this ability because their physical bodies become irrelevant and decay into dust after the original Exarch personality becomes dominant and absorbs the identity of the new wearer of the suit. At the very least, this theory reconciles some areas where lore is inconsistent.


I'm amending the "rank" progression that I described earlier (see the post I linked above). I'm not overly keen on the "rank" terminology since I don't think that the Aeldari really define such as ranks. To them, the only real ranks among the Exarchs are those of the Phoenix Lords. All others, regardless of their relative potency, are simply Exarchs. For our purposes, however, some method of distinguishing between the varying ability levels is necessary, so "ranks" become a handy method. I see seven different "ranks," though I ignore one of them. These are:

  • Exarchs (the basic Exarchs available via the datasheets)
  • Greater Exarchs (those Exarchs with an Exarch Power, as found on pages 105-107 of Codex: Aeldari)
  • Exemplar Exarchs
  • Paragon Exarchs
  • Ancient Exarchs
  • Ascended Exarchs (not quite Phoenix Lords)
  • Named Phoenix Lords


The Exemplar, Paragon, Ancient, and Ascended Exarchs are hypothetical, bridging the gap between the Exarchs that are possible under the rules and the named Phoenix Lords. Each level shows a progression, following the pattern established on page 105 of the codex. Note that I made the names up for the sake of discussion. I'm not suggesting that such ranks actually exist or that, if some ranking system is used, that these are the actual names. Realistically, the progression, if one exists, is probably much more natural, with Exarchs gaining abilities and increasing attributes one at a time over a considerable space of time. Games, however, require a level of abstraction, so the "ranks" show relative levels of progression for an Exarch. While I think that there might be other Exarchs that rival the various Phoenix Lords, I think that such are few and far between and my rules generally ignore them. Besides, some players would react poorly to the suggestion that there might be any other "Phoenix Lords" out there. Regardless, the relative numbers likely diminish rapidly as the Exarch progresses, with the overwhelming majority being at the lowest two levels I named (Exarch and Greater Exarch) and each higher rank being substantially smaller than the one before it until we get to the handful of named Phoenix Lords (we currently know of nine such Asurya, though the lore makes it clear that there may be more).


I'll cover the rules elsewhere and will provide a link here, so the focus of this continuance of the discussion is really whether or not such a progression exists and whether or not my hypotheses are crazy.

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The 9th ed Eldar codex goes some way to show the progression of an Exarch. You have the 'basic' exarch, then the exarch with a power, who also gain +1BS/+1A and +1W, who according the crusade upgrade, is an 'Exemplar of the Shrines'. Once the unit reaches the end of it's path and becomes locked, they are 'Devoted of Khaine' and gain a second power with no additional stat increases. 


There is absolutely a progression, however I don't think it's as Linear as you suggest above, and any sane attempt at doing so would have to be - the Phoenix Lords, for example, while supposedly the Exemplars of their martial style, are only stronger and tougher than other exarchs and lack the specific Exarch Powers available to generic exarchs. Asurmen has been teaching Dire Avenger Exarchs how to shoot into combat for >10,000 years, so why can't he do it himself? This may be more a gameplay thing though as the rule of one for exarch powers would stop another exarch from taking one if a PL was on the field. That's easily fixed rules wise though.  


This is where gameplay and rules break down though - why does a space marine captain promoted from lieutenant suddenly forget how to make his dudes reroll to wound?

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I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't even look at the Crusade rules. :blush: I'll have to look at those and incorporate them.


I don't think the progression is necessarily linear. The structure of the rules, however, imposes a linear representation of the progression. Other rules structures, such as those found in RPGs, might allow for a representation that is more natural.


I agree with the problems that you've identified with the Phoenix Lords. I liked how Phoenix Rising gave more flexibility, with Exarchs having some of the powers of their corresponding Phoenix Lords. I think a big problem right now is that GW hasn't really presented the Phoenix Lords as uber Exarchs, but is instead presenting them as related to the Exarchs but not representative of them. Hence my project. :wink: Yes, this same concept could be applied to many more character types in the setting, but my time and interests are too limited for me to tackle all of them. :cool:

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This thread shows the interest and level of detail that drove me the first 3 editions of the game. It has been interesting to read and while I have nothing substantive to add, encourage everybody to do cool things whether GW precedent feels liberating or restrictive. 

I can’t imagine this thought put into a social media context. 

Edited by The Yncarne
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All v. interesting.


What first comes to mind for me is: "An exarch can't take off the mask. A Phoenix Lord is the mask."


More cosmologically, I'd think of this in terms of relationships to Khaine...


I'd imagine Exarchs are closely tied to their original Craftworlds and the shards of Khaine that animate them, whereas Phoenix Lords have learned or retained some unique Aspect of Khaine in themselves that allows them a 'more personal relationship with the shattered God'.


Functionally one might find that 'n+1 gen' exarchs can help establish Shrines on other Craftworlds, or build bigger and bigger Shrines, or raise up pupils to establish more and more esoteric Shrines, but they'll always be doing so in reference to the Way of their Phoenix Lord as the primary mediary between them and Khaine directly.


Asurmen himself plays something of that mediary role to the others, of course, and that kind of 'mentor/pupil' bond or mediation appears to be pretty central to the idea of Aspect Warriors. So a big question becomes whether or not all Phoenix Lords are direct pupils of Asurmen. We know that there are aspects that don't appear in the rules, but do we think any were created 'from whole cloth' without Asurmen getting involved?




The Good Doctor.

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Good comments!


16 hours ago, Dr. Clock said:

whether or not all Phoenix Lords are direct pupils of Asurmen.


This is a good point - All the original named ones were, I believe, however it follows that maybe not all were students of Asurmen - Karandras possibly would have been a student of Ahra and not Asurmen directly. 


It's also interesting that while Asurmen taught the original lords, they then went off to figure out their own fighting styles, so aspects are maybe not as prescriptive as they would seem, and it's possible for a particularly willful warrior to learn from a Phoenix lord, then add their own flair and fighting style to it based on an unused aspect of Khaine. 


It also makes sense that up to a point an exarch is tied to their craftworld - the path of the warrior series shows the craftworld responds to the psyche of a new exarch and shows him the way to an abandoned shrine. I'm sure at some point they might feel a call to go and set up shrines on other craftworlds.


The link/love between a Phoenix Lord and their original craftworld seems to remain, however - Maugan Ra is still famously linked to Altansar, venturing into the EoT to rescue it - while the others don't seem to have a connection to a particular craftworld - possibly destroyed during the great crusade. 


In background terms, I think we'd see an exarch teach generations of warriors, until a new exarch rises, and repeat until all shrines are filled - once they are, and another exarch rises, either the new one has to leave, or I'd imagine the oldest exarch with the most experience would feel a 'pull' to leave the craftworld and travel the webway - kind of the warriors journey. After gaining experience on multiple craftworlds and battlefields, perhaps with soulstones infused with those of multiple craftworlds, they are no longer linked to a single world like @Dr. Clock says, and are on the path to phoenix lord-dom.


In game terms, i'd think:

Normal exarch

Exemplar - +1W, A, exarch power

Devoted - Second power

? - stat increase

? - roam the webway and Become a CHARACTER with the exarch powers + W increase

? - Gain 3rd exarch power

? - Exarch powers become auras

Phoenix Lord?

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