The Wheel of Ages is the eternal cycle of being, in which the earth suffers through the eras of increasing misery, until the nadir of the cycle is reached and the world begins to right itself toward Paradise once more.
The Wheel of Ages is a concept first introduced in Kindred of the East that describes a cyclic view of the history of the World of Darkness. The idea has been loosely adapted by Exalted in the Ages of Man.
The Wheel of Ages is a wheel with twelve segments, each of which is an era in world history. The First Age is a glorious utopian era, and the Sixth Age is Hell on Earth. As history progresses, the ages get shorter the closer to the Sixth Age we are, and longer the closer to the First Age. The Wheel continues perpetually. The Sixth Age is heralded by the arrival of the Demon Emperor who will rule the world in darkness and fear. Most Kuei-jin believe that the Demon Emperor will be one of the Yama Kings. Other supernaturals of the Middle Kingdom, like the Hengeyokai, the Hsien, the Chi'n Ta, and the Wu T'ian share this ideology, giving the various supernaturals of the Far East a common mythological groundwork. Because of this, relations between the various supernatural factions of Asia appear to be far more civil, since all parties accept that the other has an ordained place under Heaven, although in practice, rivalries and feuds between various faction exist and are no less vicious than in the West.
Ages have supernatural impact; World of Darkness: Blood and Silk takes place near the end of the Fourth Age and the Kuei-jin of the era are both more powerful and more readily able to reach the Hundred Clouds. As the ages progress, feeding becomes harder, chi becomes rarer and enlightenment takes longer. Ages do not change cleanly, although there is usually an event that marks the changing of the ages.
- The First Age, also known as the Age of Heaven, was an age of glory and wonder.
- The Second Age, also known as the Age of Beauty, was still a fantastic time, but somewhat less utopian than the First Age.
- The Third Age, also known as the Age of Legends.
- The Fourth Age, also known as the Age of Beautiful Sadness, included the Dark Ages.
- The Fifth Age, also known as the Age of Darkness, occupies most of the present age of the World of Darkness.
- The Sixth Age, also known as the Age of Sorrow (not to be confused with the Age of Sorrows from Exalted) is the period most western supernaturals already know as Gehenna or the Apocalypse.
- The Seventh Age
- The Eighth Age
- The Ninth Age
- The Tenth Age
- The Eleventh Age
- The Twelfth Age is also the First, and here the cycle repeats.
This is one piece among many elements which lead many people to conclude that a connection exists between Exalted and the World of Darkness. Some speculate that it is uncertain if the two settings exist in the same turning of the Wheel or separate turns. Or, indeed, whether Exalted is the past or the future of the World of Darkness (although most evidence points to Exalted coming first). But it it clearly states in one of the first advertizements for Exalted "Before the Great Flood... Before the Impergium... Before the Mythic Ages... Before the Sundering... Before there was a World of Darkness. There was Something Else." Confirming that the upcoming Exalted game took place in the prehistory of the World of Darkness. (Advertisement to be found in the back of Hunter the Reckoning)
In theory, one could choose to incorporate the new World of Darkness into this scheme. The Fall of Atlantis and the Raising of the Gauntlet would constitute transitions into a new age.