On Yozis, and the Wickedness Thereof

The Yozis explicitly want all the GSPs to die once they've done their job.

Malfeas is a brutal, murderous man-child tyrant who delights in hurting anything weaker than him and is axiomatically incapable of recognizing any point of view other than his own.

SWLiHN is a fascist who wants to eliminate free will forever and who mutilated herself in order to murder untold millions purely out of spite.

Cecelyne is a hypocrite who delights in starving others and extorting worship from them, reacting with brutal fury if they refuse.

Adorjan murders things for fun.

The ED is the ED.

You need to understand that your GSP is not the exception to this. Not to any of the things in that list. Adorjan will happily murder your GSP for fun if it strikes her whimsy. Cecelyne will treat you with capricious hypocrisy and strike you with brutal force if you fail to worship her. SWLiHN wants to remove your brain, as a GSP. Malfeas is going to murder you just as easily as he will anyone else.

The Reclamation is a terrible and boring idea in the first place (it just doesn't work as a story element once you look at the Yozis and realize that, aside from SWLiHN and Malfeas, they're not particularly capable of extended unified action of the sort it describes — that's why, in better-written supplements, the ED was always acting alone on it), but in any case, it's never been presented as anything other than "Malfeas rapes Creation forever."

There is nothing good about it. There is no virtue in it in any sense of the word. If you want to return Creation to its rightful owners, side with the Fair Folk and dissolve it to chaos; their claim is older and more solid, and they are, comparatively speaking, more capable of sane, humane actions than the Yozis are.

So-called 'loyalist' GSPs are the most boring character types imaginable. They are suckers and idiots; even the Yozis think they're just useful idiots. BWC laid out, explicitly, that the Yozis do not want their GSPs to survive. They are planning to murder you when they escape. This is canon.

You are not on their side. Any GSP who deludes themselves into thinking that they are on the side of the Yozis has gone more insane than the worst of the Exalted of the First Age. Malfeas hates you. You cannot understand how much Malfeas hates you. If the word 'hate' was written on every grain of sand in the endless desert, it still would not equal one-thousandth of one percent of the hatred Malfeas feel for you in every single nanosecond of his imprisonment. You think he is grateful? Grateful that he's in such a wretched, fallen state that he has to depend on a disgusting ape-creature like you? Grateful that he has to pretend to listen and care about a hideous monkey-thing with the core of one of the hated monsters that maimed him? You don't understand Malfeas at all. The more indebted he is to you, the more he will hate you. Everything you do for him only reminds him more and more of his weakness, and when he gets the chance, he will repay you a thousand times over for the humiliation your continued existence is inflicting on him by daring to remind him that he once needed you. (Daring to presume that he once needed you; he will never, ever, ever recognize that he ever actually did.) You may have forgotten that one of the wretched Exalted that maimed him makes up the core of your being; he has not and will not. If you want to get him to release his hatred, you will have to murder Ligier first; he will never, ever stop hating you as Malfeas.

SWLiHN is literally incapable of gratitude. She will recognize your past actions and then cheerfully euthanize you for the greater good.

Cecelyne is capable of gratitude and will murder you anyway.

Adorjan wouldn't even care if you released her. She'll murder you and laugh, but she murders everyone and laughs.

Literally, I'm fairly certain I recall Holden's summary of the Yozis when Infernals came out as being "They don't care about you. To the extent that they care about you, they hate you for making them care about you." The fact that they have to depend on a lowly creature like you is a deathly insult to the Yozis. And if you manage to show you're not lowly? As the Broken-Winged Crane says, they'll hate you more for that. They do not want you to become a rival or a replacement. They see you as a disposable tool, which they will use for this one job they need and then destroy.

If you want to feel gratitude for your Exaltation, feel it towards Autochthon and the UCS; they were the ones who decided to uplift humanity with Exaltation. Granted, they had their own reasons, but so did the Yozis — and the Yozis had to use you, as a human. You weren't even chosen by them, you were chosen by the criteria encoded in the Solar Exaltation that makes the core of the power they granted you (literally, read MoEP: Infernals. The Yozis do nothing beyond attaching a leash to it and changing the powers it grants.) A GSP who is grateful for the Yozis for their Exaltation is someone who just doesn't understand the setting yet.

My point is, basically, you also need to come up with a reason if you want to play a loyalist, in the long term, and that's really much much much harder to do. People just treat it like "the default", and it isn't.

Gratitude isn't a reasonable long-term motivation to do the kind of things GSPs are regularly called on to do. "It's the Yozis' right!" is inane in the same way someone committing themselves to restoring the Solar Exalted or allowing the Fair Folk to dissolve Creation based purely on "it is their right!" is inane. Those are dumb motivations that make your character look like a two-dimensional caricature. (Solar Exalted / Fair Folk who want to do it for themselves based on those principles excepted, of course, since that's actually self-serving. But that doesn't apply to default-loyalist GSPs.)

Genuine religious fanaticism towards the Yozis is more reasonable, but it's really hard to justify and can be harder to play. Philosophical beliefs that align with one of the Yozis might help, but even then, none of the Yozis' themes would really lead someone else, outside the prison, who has those themes to want to free the Yozis inside. None of the Yozis are opposed to the concept of imprisonment; they just don't want to be imprisoned themselves. So if you become more and more like Malfeas or Adorjan or the ED or Cecelyne, you're likely to, increasingly, stop caring about those guys in there — SWLiHN's themes might make you more loyal, but on the other hand, it might make you more loyal to your circle's Slayer instead, or who knows what.

Honestly, I don't feel you need much of a reason to turn your back on the Reclamation, compared to that. Even something as simple as "my motivation / intimacies are different, and I care more about them than about Malfeas' increasingly-obviously-insane ranting" is more than enough. When Malfeas says "GO KILL LYTEK, or die!" and Lytek is this guy you've never heard of before, you need a reason to obey; you don't need a particularly good reason to tell him to fuck himself. Most people do not murder random strangers on the orders of insane fallen demon-tyrants! This is not a normal thing to do! This is not the "default" way GSPs should behave!

In fact, you need to explain why you haven't just told him to go fuck himself. As I said above, the hard part would be explaining why your GSP has a motivation that lines up with the Yozis — you're supposed to be a three-dimensional character who cares about his own stuff and who is heavily defined by his prior life as a mortal, not a mindless puppet who instantly forgot everyone he ever knew and loved the moment he Exalted because he is Green Colored and therefore on Team Yozi.

"I'm a nice person" is, honestly, a totally valid reason to want to turn against the Reclamation. The fact is that one of the Yozis is very very likely to order you to do something utterly reprehensible, and most people are likely to rethink their priorities at that moment and then say "fuck it, why should I obey these guys?" It's a bit generic, sure, if you don't have more to your character than that, but it is still a better story than mindlessly obeying the Yozis because you are Green-Colored and therefore on Team Yozi.

Painting absolutely everything in shades of grey is as boring as painting everything in black-and-white. It's a cheap, cynical trick that hack writers use to try and appear deep and insightful. It's one of the things I've always hated about White Wolf publications, and part of what I like about Exalted is that it recognizes that that's not always how things work.

It's not a choice between presenting everyone in shades-of-grey and presenting some people as cackling supervillains. The point should be to show that their actions make sense from their own point of view, not to try and establish some sort of bullshit moral equivalence between everyone and everything in the setting. It's the difference between showing a vibrant, believable setting, and going for "what if, you know, the devil had a point, MAAAN? *bong hit*"

Some people are jerks. Some people are genuinely not on your side. The Yozis are not inexplicable, mind — their actions make sense from their perspective, and not just in a "they are insane" fashion; you could see humans granted their degree of power acting the way they do. I predicted, back before BWC came out, that the Yozis had a plan to kill all their GSPs and prevent further reincarnations, based not on the themes of individual Yozis but on the fact that nothing else really makes any sense.

If you view the Yozis as people rather than as plot devices — people who are used to holding vast, incredible power — it makes total sense for them to hate and loathe the GSPs, to hate them all the more for the fact that they're being forced to depend on them. The point is that the story of Androcles' lion is total bull. Lions don't react that way. Most of the time, people don't really react that way.

The Yozis are more interesting as spiteful and vindictive people; the position of GSPs is more interesting when it is unstable — when there is the constant tension of Malfeas' hatred for them looming over them. Allowing a GSP to just say "well, I work for the Yozis, and that's that!" and have no other issues with them is sufficiently boring that it's worth introducing plot elements to ensure that it won't go so smoothly, just like the hunt for Anathema in Creation is a plot element intended to keep things from running smoothly. Conflict is what keeps things interesting, and for that reason, if no other, the relationship between GSPs and Yozis is meant to be primarily defined by conflict.

Putting your characters in an initial state that is 'stable' — in a relationship with a boss who they can just keep working for — is boring. Characters are meant to have interesting arcs, and the game is designed to force those arcs. A protagonist's story is set on its path by putting them in an unsustainable situation — by setting things up to collapse. The relationship that GSPs have with their Yozis exists primarily for that purpose — so it can collapse to drive their storyline.

What would be boring would be to have a game that allowed the GSPs to thoughtlessly sit on their intellectual laurels and work for Malfeas without having his nature — as a person, not simply as a Yozi — ground into their faces. That is why one of the core messages of BWC wasn't "Malfeas is a jerk" but "Malfeas is going to be a jerk to you."

The Yozis are not going to be a good outcome for humanity. They are disfunctional, mutilated, bitter and ridiculously powerful. This does not preclude people wanting to support them without being pointlessly evil.

Oh, I agree. There are plenty of reasons you could make a loyalist. You can choose to play a religious fanatic, or a chump, or a madman. You can decide that the Yozis are genuinely right and that they deserve an unchallenged rule over Creation, and follow this to its logical conclusion (as they have) and willingly accept that you're going to die at the end of the plan.

What you cannot do (without being a chump) is just say "screw humanity, I'm siding with the Yozis" and expect that to resolve all your internal conflicts. That would be too pure a role — Exalted a game based, primarily, around protagonists being constantly challenged with the results of their actions. Hence, the Yozis consider you part of humanity, and always will. They have no intention of ever allowing you to become anything but humanity; they have no desire to see you turn into another Yozi (why on earth would they want that?)

This is good, as a setting element. Nothing is more boring than a perfect protagonist. I'll illustrate what I mean with the one character we obviously disagree over:

Another simply didn't view humanity's wellbeing as her concern. She was an unExalted member of a Lookshy Gens, who'd spent her entire life being walked over by those Dragon-blooded who were more fortunate than her, and walking over those baseline mortals who'd been less so. She liked that the Primordials had given her the power to kick in the faces of anyone who looked at her funny, and found Hell more honest in its unfair brutality than Creation, rather than outright worse.

That's fine! She's a perfectly interesting character. And her reaction when the Yozis stab her in the back, or when she finds out that they intend to stab her in the back (as they have been planning to do from the start) is, doubtless, going to make for an incredibly interesting story. Depending on her feelings on that brutality, she might fight back or agree to die, but it's clearly the logical result of the unfair brutality she admires in Hell, so she should be able to foresee it.

Your argument is that her story is more interesting if the Yozis don't stab her in the back. Why? Because she's not a 'chump', then? Because it lets her philosophy and goals be entirely complete and flawless within her own definition? Nobody gets that in Exalted. Nobody.

What you want is for her to be perfect. You want her to subscribe to that philosophy and never have to be on its receiving end. This, this, this is why I hate that sort of GSP conceptualization — the one where you can play that character and have Malfeas hug her and cuddle her and give her a Burger-King crown as reward for her efforts. You can discard your humanity if you want. You can blaze your legend into the uncaring cosmos if you want. But the only one who is going to reward you for that is you.

Malfeas don't care. His philosophy isn't "YOZI GOOD, HUMAN BAD!" His philosophy is one of absolutely ruthless totalitarian brutality. When you devote yourself to ruthless totalitarian brutes, you can't object when they treat you in a ruthless, brutal fashion! You don't get to devote yourself to murderous fascists and then act all shocked, shocked when they start pulling out the long knives!

The hatred the Yozis have for their GSP is core to their story because it avoids the usual bullshit where the trappings of brutality and fascism are used for characters who want to look all cool and scary and shit without ever, you know, exploring what those trappings mean (beyond inflicting them on faceless NPCs.) What they mean is that if you enter a world of brutal tyranny and ruthless expedience, you are going to get treated brutally.

With the implication, of course, that *every* 'side' to take in Exalted is this way - Lookshy, the Realm, Bureau/Loom, UCS, etc. At least I'd hope so.

Most of those are barely functional as 'sides' in the sense that people side with the Reclamation. This is part of the reason I hate the Reclamation as a setting concept and wish it had been done differently or not at all — it's too unified, too 'pat', kinda. It tries to draw this rigid line around everything Infernal — at least, all the official 'Reclamation Yozis' — and say "THEY'RE ALL LIKE THIS." If you take it literally and follow up on it, then seriously siding with the Reclamation (with no intention to ever have your character go back on that choice) is the last large-scale decision your character will ever make; everything else is just an implementation detail. Everyone who sides with THE RECLAMATION, INC is portrayed as thinking nearly the exact same way. That's dull.

Whereas if you side with, say, the Realm, you're plunging yourself into this huge civil war with multiple factions and multiple sides trying to resolve the conflict in different ways, where just about everyone wants to become an Emperor / Empress or appoint someone else Emperor / Empress or eliminate the need for it or advance some other hidden agenda or whatever.

If you side with Lookshy — Lookshy hasn't gotten as much press as the Realm, but it's the same thing. What direction should Lookshy go in? Should they side with Anathema or against them (and if so, which Anathema?) There's also the problem that Lookshy is probably doomed — how are you going to deal with that, or avert it? Or is there something bigger than the city of Lookshy that you're really siding with — is Lookshy's death just the hatching of an egg, giving birth to a larger order? If so, what?

The Bureau has the obvious split, but even within those, the position that each faction occupies in the setting is extremely fluid — the Bronze Faction could decide to side with someone other than the Realm's Dragon-Blooded, say, or decide to support a tiny number of one type of Anathema against everyone else, banking that they can control that number, or make any one of countless other decisions that would radically change their position in the setting; the Gold Faction has a huge range of ways to decide their position relative to the Solar Exalted (and what they do with the other Exalted). And either faction (or the independents) can be pressed to join into another or to pursue some totally unrelated goal or solution.

The UCS is barely involved in anything. He's not a "side." What does it mean to side with him? To try and draw him out of the Games? To influence him into taking some position relative to Creation? (And if so, what?) Convincing the UCS to embrace the Infernal Exalted as his own is a totally valid and suitably epic goal for a GSP, say. (I would tend to say that a story where the UCS suddenly cures himself of his addiction, then starts giving the PCs orders and the PCs mindlessly obey them would be incredibly boring. But that's why the game is deliberately designed with him in a position where that doesn't happen unless the PCs go ridiculously far out of their way to make it happen.)

My point is, just viewing the game as a bunch of "sides" is an incredibly dull and uninteresting way to view it. The fact that the Reclamation encourages that thinking (I've seen a lot more of it on the forums ever since MoEP: Infernals was published) is more than enough reason to dump the term.

If I were writing a hypothetical Infernals 3e, say, I'd have one sidebar on "The Reclamation" noting that some people in Creation tell horror-stories about it and some Sidereals fear the idea that the Yozis might have this big unified plan, then explain why it could never happen. I'd have the creation of the GSPs involve the Ebon Dragon sidling up to each of the Yozis who make the core GSP castes and have him weedling out their support for his big plan individually. He originally intended to control the GSP Exaltation process entirely himself, and was pissed that the other Yozis insisted on getting as much influence as they have, but none of the other Yozis share their plans or intentions with each other at all — each of them plans to use their GSPs in their own way, with escape as only one of the many possible things they might be focused on (Adorjan explicitly doesn't care about escape, so GSPs who come in through her will never have it mentioned to them. But even Malfeas is just as likely to use his GSPs to murder random people who piss him off as he is to pursue some larger agenda.)

I'd also have the Yozis on the verge of a civil war with each other, with a significant amount of wordcount devoted to playing that out and how they'd use their GSPs if such a thing broke out between two or more Yozis, how GSPs might choose sides, etc — or even encourage an inter-Yozi war for their own ends.

The point is, even if you're going to do it, "I side with the Yozis" shouldn't be the last interesting decision your PC ever makes. Right now, since they're all ridiculously, boringly uniform in their goals, it basically is — once you seriously devote yourself to the Yozis as a loyal minion, you have one goal and that's it, forever. You might as well just be playing an Akuma.

In fact, Games of Divinity went out of its way to avoid this 'monolithic Yozis problem' by noting that only the Ebon Dragon seriously pursued escape — I would probably go back to this, and explicitly note that only the Ebon Dragon actually still believes escape to be possible; other Yozis may occasionally make gestures in that direction, but in their hearts they don't believe it, even with GSPs themselves, and are more likely to use their GSPs towards other goals.

(The books do support this a bit. Remember, one of the biggest things Cecelyne and Malfeas looked forward to in terms of having GSPs was tormenting them forever. I think it's fairly important to preserve the fact that the Ebon Dragon is the only really escape-oriented Yozi in order to avoid turning them into a bland, unified faction of generic sealed demons.)

The politics of Hell should be complicated, fractured, and violent, with enough room in it for PCs to leave their mark and determine the ultimate goals that their faction pursues. This is how it works, basically, everywhere else in the setting.

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