Are Infernals Evil

The problem with the Yozis is that even after the Primordial War, they still don't get it. Their thought processes are simply not wired to understand that these creations of theirs have arrived in a place where they don't care about the Yozis or what they want. Yozi thought processes stem from the basic assumption that what they want is the only thing that matters. They understand that the Exalted have the power to hurt them, because they did that once upon a time. But they think they can control this batch of Exalted by alternately laying into them with a whip and giving them mountains of blow and hookers in Hell. This is, to put it bluntly, crude.

I mean, recall that Malfeas's original plan was to control the GSPs by just screaming at them and beating the shit out of them constantly, because, hey, it works with his demons, and the Ebon Dragon (who understands guile, treachery, and betrayal better than the rest of them) had to talk him around to understanding that this might maybe backfire.

They have drafted human beings to carry out a fundamentally inhuman and anti-human agenda. An Infernal's overlords are alien. Although they've been humbled enough (once) to conceptualize appealing to him in his moment of weakness, they don't really understand what weakness is because they've never lived it. At their worst, darkest hour, they were still cosmic beings. With a bit more luck, they could have had things turn out their way, like they usually did.

The Yozis think that if they judiciously apply the carrot and the stick, their Infernals will obey, because barring unnatural weirdness like the Primordial War, they think obeying is the natural state of beings that aren't Yozis. Infernals do not share this preconception, especially not once they really get a taste of the raw power of a stolen Solar Exaltation. Frankly, they have a lot more to gain by telling the Yozis to go screw than by continuing to carry out the Reclamation, whether they fetch kittens out of trees in the process or not.


Keep in mind, also, that the Yozis don't go up and say "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, find me the cruelest serial rapist of them all." Their Infernal Exaltation's guidance system is… a Solar Exaltation. They get to evaluate people who could have been Solars. Sometimes they get lucky, and it's Havesh the Vanisher. But sometimes it's Dace, only he decides he can't win tomorrow's battle and slinks off in the night rather than standing to die with his men.

If they can't get cackling, fucking-a-dead-baby crazy evil, they'll settle for gullible. People with a grudge against Heaven or the current establishment of Creation. Folks like [the Blood Queen]—not evil by any stretch of the imagination, just wronged and foolish and willing to sign a bad deal to get her pound of flesh.

They're counting on the uglier parts of human nature to carry the day for them, but the fact of the matter is, right now, the Reclamation is mostly running on inertia. It's one reason they're in such a damn hurry to break out of Hell now. Unlike the Neverborn, they haven't set up a truly sustainable control mechanism, and their Green Sun Princes are a lot more powerful than they expected.

Of course, there are still some sticks and carrots and other surprises waiting in the wings—the line has not had its final say on the Infernal Exalted yet. If the Reclamation fails, or fails to work quickly, the Yozis and their new Exalted are going to be in for… interesting times.

Let's take this back to basics.

The Yozis are beings of profound hatred and malice.

Even the nicest ones—Adorjan, SWL and Cecelyne—are still absolutely furious about getting rolled for lunch money and shoved down Malfeas's throat. And they still don't fit any recognizable human value of 'nice.' Adorjan is homicidally insane (it just isn't personal), SWL wants to obviate free will, and Cecelyne simply wants a method to the madness of your torment. She wants to abuse and punish you, just, you know, systematically, rather than at random like the ED and Malfeas. Except that the system will itself be inherently capricious and random, so this isn't really much of a step up.

Given their druthers, the Green Sun Princes would just be akuma with superchargers in place of caste marks. Given their druthers, the Infernal Exalted would have their brains scooped out and replaced with silver sand, able to do nothing but act as perfect vessels of Primordial vengeance. Ideally, their Princes would retain only enough self-awareness to fall down in terrified awe before the Yozis, worship them with every last terrified shred of their hearts, and then go forth to topple the nations of men, gift the Exalted with blindness and weeping sores and laugh as their blood boils them from the inside out, and then eat the gods one mote at a time.

This is how most of the Yozis believe the universe inherently works. The fact that they don't get everything they want, as soon as they want it, is some kind of terrible, ongoing mistake that they're attempting to correct without really understanding that this is the outcome of the cosmos they designed, when viewed through a perspective other than their own.

The Yozis are insane, but not fishmalks.

The Yozis are mad by human standards, generally manifesting an enormous, divine version of obsessive-compulsive disorder. They're broken and lessened by their imprisonment, yes, but the fact of the matter is that their madness generally does not emerge from their imprisonment.

Consider Autochthon and the Mountain Folk. It took the dumb bastard three tries to produce a functioning race. He made the First, and was like "cool" and wandered off. And then much much much later he ran into the First again, who was sitting there despondent without a purpose, and Autochthon was like "uhhh… make more dudes." Because, hey, it made him happy. So the First made more dudes, and then they all sat around kind of despondent not knowing what to do. And they finally got ahold of Autochthon again, and what was his suggestion for their Grand Purpose? Why had they been brought into existence? "Uhh… make stuff." Hey, it worked for him. He was God to these people, but he had no interest in purpose. He just liked making stuff. His bliss was in the building. He liked humans because they used his three favorite inventions (faith, dogma, tools). He didn't even care what they did with them, he just liked that they used them.

And he's probably the most functional of the bunch.

Before Malfeas was the Demon City, he was the Holy Tyrant. Look at his Charms. They're mostly not being tongue-in-cheek—he has to have a damned psychic fracture to even conceive of anyone else's opinion mattering. The Ebon Dragon is actually incapable of understanding heroism except through opposition to it. That urge to reach down deep, and to rise above? He can't fathom it. He doesn't even really believe in it. It's a glitch in the pattern of how he believes the universe works.

Yozis embody what they are and they are what they embody. Their multitude of souls are less tightly constrained, helping to facilitate their interaction with a universe that is not made up of the complete mental absolutes that Yozis deal in, but still…

As an example—we (the crunch guys of the line) are pretty sure at this point that Yozis can't actually practice martial arts. At all. Their entire Essence structure is dedicated to hard-core embodiment of the titan's integral concepts. They can't make it imitate a tiger or the prismatic arrangement of Creation. (The Ebon Dragon, of course, has kind of a loophole here, but even then, he's just acting in his function as the Shadow of All Things. He can only mock other peoples' enlightenment, he has none of his own.) Their souls can learn martial arts, and to some degree emulate things other than what they are, and this helps them stretch beyond their own mental boundaries a bit. But Yozis themselves remain cosmic absolutes.

The point I'm getting at here is, they're really smart, but part of their inherent nature also makes them really stupid at times. Up until the Exalted came along, they were powerful enough that nothing could really make them face the consequences of those stupid moments.

The Infernal Exalted were designed by committee.

The Neverborn, to put it very bluntly, have better Exalted for their purposes. They have all the time in the world. The Abyssals are inexorable world-killing weapons. They've got a nice control mechanism, but it really doesn't even matter if it works—the Neverborn think their Abyssals will kill the world even if they're trying not to. They were designed with a unified goal (kill everything), and it's a very simple goal (kill everything) that can be accomplished in an almost infinite variety of ways. It really doesn't matter how they do it. Just wind them up and turn them loose.

That's not the Infernals. The Infernals were designed by five bickering titans whose insanity works at semi-cross-purposes. She Who Lives In Her Name wanted, basically, super-akuma. This would have presented the same problems that already plague the akuma they have. She didn't care. She cannot care about anything more than a place for every thing and every thing in its place. She had to be ordered to stand down from the idea by Malfeas, and that only worked because her place is to do what he says. Malfeas, in turn, wanted to just scream and yell and beat the shit out of the Princes to motivate them, because that's how he motivates everything. He can't, on his own, conceive that them not liking that sort of treatment would matter. The Ebon Dragon, ultimate embodiment of backstabbing fuckery that he is, had to clue the Demon City in on the likely consequences there.

The Infernals are not an ideal design. And they're carrying out a decidedly non-simple goal. And they're not all that elegantly matched to the goal. Instead, they have carrots, and sticks, and these are applied crudely at various intervals.

People in Creation are pretty much like people in the real world—and the Exalted are pretty much just people.

With 'heroism' in Exalted's milieu pretty much just meaning 'wow,' what's the biggest criteria you generally see Solar shards choosing for? Strong moral standings (of some sort) and ambition seem to be the big two. This is the guidance system for the Infernal Exaltation.

So the Yozis are picking out of a pool of candidates who are mostly men of powerful conviction (which faltered in the crucible), or great ambition (which blew up in their face). The Yozis say, "The gods gave you a shot, and you were judged unworthy. The world is cruel and it cares nothing about you. But Hell sees that you have worth. It wants to give you another chance. It wants to give you the power to change everything. Are the Yozis not merciful?"

People will usually jump at that.

But that isn't quite the bargain they get. They have the stolen power of a Solar Exaltation, and they have their Motivation, but the Yozis don't care what it is. You still want to become the world's greatest thief / seduce the most beautiful woman in the world / punish those who prey on the innocent? That's nice. Your Urge is to murder Lytek. Sure, you've never heard of Lytek, and you don't care about him, but that's what we want for the Reclamation, and we're going to Torment you if you don't go fucking kill Lytek.

But it's cool. You get demon hookers and demon crack and a townhouse in Hell. Monsters sing your praises. The booze is without compare. And here's a shiny blade of infinite blasphemies, and a cult that worships you as the terrible bringer of all their darkest dreams. You have magic that makes you mightier than a hundred men and as terrible as the wrath of any mere god. So, this is a pretty good deal!

No, you don't get to use it to be the world's greatest thief / womanizer / vigilante. GO KILL LYTEK. Do it or the worms in your brain start to sizzle and the red haze comes down and you'll wake up to find yourself covered in the gore and intestines of your concubines, in the smashed shell of your townhouse.

But it's okay. We still forgive you. You had to learn. Now go kill him. We'll fix you up with a new townhouse, and more whores. And when you're done with Lytek? We've got more goals.

They understand venality but they don't understand self-determination, because they don't think humans should have any, even though the Ebon Dragon insisted that they need to keep it. They still don't understand that the Exalted fought for themselves. They think it was all those fucking treacherous gods. The Exalted were their instruments. They can conceive of the gods as things-that-matter.

The Primordial War went down for human reasons. Why did humans accept the Exaltation? Because it gave them the power to chase their dreams. Why did they go to war for the Incarnae? Because their promise was that, if the Exalted won, people would not have to live in filth and fear, as the playthings of mad titans and the slaves of the mighty.

The promise of the Yozis is, "when I rise up to blot out the sun and turn Creation into an endless abbatoir of vengeful atrocities, I'll spare you. You can still have blow and hookers, rather than agony and death."

This becomes a less and less appealing proposition as a given Green Sun Prince's power approaches the point where he can march up and slap the taste out of Malfeas's mouth. This is one of the reasons the Yozis want the Reclamation to happen, like, yesterday, rather than letting it take its sweet ass time the way they Neverborn are with their agenda.


Exalted, as a game, isn't designed to emulate Ancient World traditional mythic stories. It's designed to subvert them by injecting modern rational analysis and consequences. To say that Exaltation makes one immune to consequences is to completely and totally miss the point of the game. This is why there is no resurrection magic in Exalted, even if you sell your soul to the Yozis and sacrifice a five-dot artifact. You can't build a N/A artifact to do it. You can't invent an Essence 10 Charm. You can't give up everything you have and are. You can't have take-backsies. The things you do have consequences and you have to live with and deal with them.

And I imagine the Exalted care about death exactly as much as the average heroic person does, which is to say, they're absolutely terrified of the whole notion, but maybe they have something they value enough to put it above their own life. They're certainly not blasé about the thought of dying.

Infernals and Leashes

Specifically because they're "not that terrible," as you put it. A Green Sun Prince can save the world (or, hell, forge new worlds) as he is. An Abyssal can't. He can't truly, effectively oppose the Neverborn the way a Solar can. Not as an Abyssal. The only way to realize the heroic potential some Abyssals strive for is to quit being Abyssals.

Infernals are not in that position. They have a leash, but they can jerk it out of the hands of their masters eventually. They have more freedom than Abyssals, and more self-determination. They don't need redemption into a different kind of Exalt to change the course they're on.

Cthulhu has Problems, Too (in response to Foxcalibur)

HOLDEN: Allow me to start by saying: Fuck Cthulhu. Fuck him right in his tentacled face.

Exalted is most interesting to me in its 'morality play' mode, and seething incomprehensible and uncomprehending primal chaos is absolutely useless in that context. You can no more assign moral judgments to Cthulhu than you can assign them to a hurricane. As such, he's worthless to Exalted. If he must be present, let him be scenery, not a character. Screw him.

Keep in mind, my goal is not to change anyone's mind, but to remind people that good stories involve such trifling things as logic and consequences, and certain themes must be addressed in games about hell and its servants.

HOLDEN: Funny thing is, that's where I'm coming from as well. The issue seems to be that you're bringing in certain assumptions about Hell and its servants that Exalted doesn't.

Furtheralso, we must remember Bubba's original kweshun. "Do Infernals HAVE to be evil?" This means he acknowledges such a thing as evil (and by proxy, good) and so must we within the discussion. "No, because who are you to say what's good and evil," is a dodge, not an answer. I'm answering his question. If evil exists, must Infernals be it? Yup, almost always.

HOLDEN: That's not a useful starting point in Exalted, because evil, as such, doesn't exist. Not as a cosmic force. The Yozis certainly aren't an embodiment of it, the way, say, Satan is.

What he's actually asking is, "Do Infernals HAVE to be jerks?" and the answer there is a resounding "no."

Word to your mother. It's not that big a leap, then, to call a being of profound hatred and malice evil, without delving into a whole debate about what evil even means. If you're full of hatred and malice, and wanna act on it to harm people, you're probably not so nice. This be what I done been saying.

HOLDEN: It's not that big a leap, no, but it's not that accurate a leap, either. [The Blood Queen] is also a being of profound hatred and malice—and is one of the most sympathetic figures in print that I can think of. If I were in her shoes, I would probably have taken the deal, too. The power to take her revenge on her rapists, and on the system that betrayed her in her darkest hour rather than supporting her? Sure. That sounds good. It seems to me like she has a great reason to be full of hate and rage and lust for revenge.
Or are those things inherently evil? Is the expectation that she should let go of her rancor? Why? They were going to kill her. If what happened to her happens to one of her erstwhile 'sisters,' they'll turn on her too. Jesus Christ is not there. He will not invite her into his Kingdom if she can only forgive those who sinned against her.

All I am a-saying, aside from give peace a chance, is that all these qualities makes Yozis evil. That they cannot even imagine another person's point of view makes them terrifying beings. And that their own POV is so fueled by malice and hatred makes them evil, terrifying beings.

HOLDEN: They're mostly jerks. But some of them, certainly, have a good rationale for being jerks. You can certainly sympathize with, say, She Who Lives In Her Name, who was not all that bad before the Primordial War. But she stood with Malfeas (who was a complete asshole), because he was her King. It was not in her nature to betray him. So she had to go into Hell with the rest of them. That's not very just. But she has to stay there, because she'll do terrible things if unleashed, and it would surely be evil to sacrifice the well-being of the human race to correct an injustice against one being.

Wouldn't it? Rorschach would say no. Adrian Veidt would say yes. Tough question, especially if you don't have a vested interest in the well-being of humanity.

Absolutely. Boogs and I have been engaged in an epic kung fu fight on this topic, and I'm glad you decided it for me. The Yozis are not insane the way a gibbering lunatic is insane. They are insane in the way an elder thing is insane. C'thulu, not Mr. Chuckles who thinks he's Napoleon. Ergo, they should not be portrayed as dinguses.

HOLDEN: Like I said up above: Fuck Cthulhu. He's useless for the kind of stories I like to see Exalted tell. Also, he is a chump. He took a tramp steamer in the face and went down. He was a giant rubber monster, more or less. The Yozis are insane the way an insane person is insane, but on a cosmic scale.

If we're qualifying "evil insanity" as sociopathy, then the Maidens, for what it's worth, are almost as crazy. Saturn presides over the murder of saints and the overthrow of tyrants alike, and the only thing she has to care about is that the soul leaves the body at the right moment. She couldn't do her job with a fully human outlook.

One of the rather important things about Exalted is that incredible smart people within its setting do incredibly stupid things sometimes, but in a very competent manner. The Deathlords are training their replacements right now—but hey, they're ancient all-powerful sorcerers, they think they can handle it. The Yozis just made a batch of Baby Yozis, 2.0. They didn't really have any better choice, given what they need to achieve and the individuals putting the plan together. They're trusting their escape plan to be carried out by a bunch of guys who are drawing one-fifth of their Charms from the progenitor of the cosmic principle of betrayal. How much does it matter who they pick?

Oh-ho! Now a point we can disagree on. Kinda. Not really. I'm okay with the Yozis not being omniscient, hyper-efficient beings of pure unbridled win. I'm okay with someone being able to fool a Yozi. It's the stuff what myths are made of, after all. But the idea that Malfeas (we keep coming back to him) would even pick someone who'd be inclined to fool him is highly unlikely.

HOLDEN: Historically, the Yozis are pretty good at fooling themselves. Remember, the entire reason the Primordial War worked is that they assumed humans were too weak to be worth safeguarding against in any way. They never anticipated that Autochthon might go postal (although a ten-year-old human child could have predicted that). They never anticipated that they could die. Please understand, these are very binary beings. Where they are not utter transcendental geniuses, they are often completely mentally incapable. Malfeas isn't stupid. He's dauntingly smart. But he's almost physically incapable of stopping to consider your point of view as in any way valid. It actually makes him mentally ill to do so, even briefly. So yes. Sometimes he will do something and it will blow up in his face in such a way that a five year old could have seen it coming. But he can't. Not because he's stupid, but because he can't.

I mean what I said—before the Primordial War, the Primordials essentially had no 'predators' that existed on their scale. There was nothing to really enforce the consequences of their blind spots on them. Sometimes they'd just try to do something and it wouldn't turn out right. So they'd toss it aside and do something else. They'd shrug. This is where the darkbrood races mostly came from. The Primordials are not and have never been infallible; they simply never had to face any real consequences for their mistakes.

He likes direct, brutal, rage-filled Slayers. If a direct, brutal, rage-filled person is offered the chance to turn Creation into Hell, and says yes, most likely he a bad man. If he's not a bad man, and he took the power in hopes of doing good with it, fine, but I'm sure the reality of Malfeas (location AND Yozi) would convince him he made the wrong choice. And his heroic actions would convince Malfeas HE made the wrong investment. And then it's an uphill battle for Slayer-boy, trying to do good when most fibers of his being scream for him to hellify Creation, and that's what his powers help him do.

HOLDEN: He likes direct, brutal, rage-filled Slayers, but he also understands—in sort of an abstract fashion, as a datum that has been explained to him but which does not really make perfect sense—that the Reclamation will require a variety of talents. Having ten Killfuck Soulshitters as his slayers might stroke his ego, but that's not the point of the exercise here. (It would also be terribly boring, from a game perspective, if all members of a given Infernal Caste were cut from a single mold.)

Further, he has to take what he can get.

Moreover, you're assuming that the average Infernal has any idea what he's buying into when he Exalts. They generally don't. They understand that they just got kicked in the nuts by destiny, generally relating directly to their lack of power, and that they're getting offered power and a second chance. That's very tempting, even for a saint.

Did he fool Malfeas? Sure. Does he want to be a hero? Blessim, he does. Is he now boned? I sure hope so, or his storyteller's just the nicest guy in the world, and I wonder if he'd buy me that car I've been needing.

HOLDEN: Most people don't evaluate decisions like that.

Keep in mind, even if the Yozis can be stupid, a Yozi even attempting to be discerning would probably be pretty freaking discerning.

HOLDEN: To the extent that it is capable of doing so. And to the extent that it has the raw materials to be discerning about. Keep in mind that some of these guys (especially Adorjan) are going to regard the choice between Exalting Mortal A and Exalting Mortal B the same way you'd decide whether to use red or blue Play-Doh to sculpt something. Keep in mind that others, being the twisted fucks they are, will revel in tempting otherwise virtuous potential Exalts, looking forward to degrading them through an ordination of pain and lies. They're sure they can do so successfully; they're Yozis, after all, and their mark is just a human.

They're not an ideal design, no. That's another very important part of the myth-cycle of hell. Potent as the demon is, something about him is inherently broken. But they're very good at Creation —> Hell, no?

HOLDEN: Not really. Not on anything approaching the same level as Abyssals are good at making Creation into a graveyard. Not to the point where everything they do advances that goal, whether they want it to or not.

They're pretty effective when it comes down to that. And regardless of how they were designed, every last Infernal agreed to the mission statement. The mission statement is wicked, so agreeing to it is agreeing to be wicked. Individual Infernals might disagree, but I argue, very, very rarely, and if they do disagree, can be quickly disabused of their pretensions.

HOLDEN: Out of curiosity, how do you evaluate rebellious Abyssals? I mean, they're a very well-established game concept. Surely, they must be orders of magnitude more evil than Infernals, by your standards…?

While I appreciate the 300 reference, Xerxes is a villain, and at best, Ephialtes is a pathetic wretch for agreeing. Faced with his villainy, he cringes in shame, but the other option is to revel in villainy.

HOLDEN: Xerxes is a man, and Leonidas murders his messenger and takes his people into a grinding, hideous war because he refuses to make a token offering of submission to the King of Persia. Xerxes certainly isn't a saint, of course—invading and dominating your neighbors is a bit of a dick thing to do—but the Spartans are also far from saints themselves.

The Yozis are not, in fact, merciful. The Yozis are "being nice to you." You know, the way the school bully can break your friend's legs, date-rape his girlfriend and slash the teacher's tires. But if he's friendly with you, and someone asks what he's like, you just say "he's a pretty cool guy." I know people explain others selling their souls to the devil as "one bad day," but here's the truth: If you agree to harm others for personal gain, you are agreeing to evil. I'm not discussing Exalt's mileiu because Exalt's mileiu is irrelevant to right and wrong, which are universal and objective. You're not "only human" for consenting to monstrosity. You're the worst of what's human. The four virtues are guiding emotions, not moral barometers.
I understand, not everyone is willing to go tell the school bully to eff himself, or reject bribes, resist lust and amibition. Most people can't, and I know I'm not! But there are degrees. Would every down-on-his-luck human being, offered power in exchange for SERVING HELL, serve hell? Gee, I sure hope not. And most traditional Devil's bargains DON'T actually require you to make the world a foul place while you live, whereas the Infernal Exaltation does. That's pretty freaking bad, and I can firmly say I'd rather be pounded into paste by a blood-ape.

HOLDEN: What's so bad about Hell? These aren't Christian devils. Your reward for virtuously refusing the Yozis' mercy is going to be a sudden, violent dismemberment, followed by being eaten alive by a blood-ape. Assuming you escape from their messenger, your new reward will be to live out your life, impotent and powerless, as someone else enjoys the stolen might of a Solar Exaltation and uses it to pave over the world and turn it into something more to his liking. Again, Jesus will not reward you.

Creation is a terrible, uncaring place. The gods are corrupt. Heaven is a sham and a scam, full of grifters and liars and con-men. The divine embodiment of virtue and righteousness hasn't left his pleasure dome in years. The average mortal is born into grinding poverty, breaks his back laboring for his entire life, and dies an ugly, undignified death. Then everything he is as a person is erased, his soul passes through an impersonal sorting system, and he begins a new life of pain and toil. His children will face more of the same. Those who stand up and stride forth and try to do something about this tend to get crushed under the tread of the truly mighty—corrupt provincial gods (which is most gods), their gifted sons and daughters, or the haughty Terrestrial Exalted. If you're really unlucky, maybe you'll come down on the bad side of a Lunar who wants to re-order your society into something he likes and you don't. Or an Abyssal will want to kill you for existing. Or you'll get drafted into a militia to face down a Solar. Or you'll get drafted into a militia by a Solar, robbed of your desire to stay on your plot of land and protect your meager belongings and loved ones by his honeyed, Essence-driven words. And then you'll die for a cause you have no investment in, or to further some magic asshole's agenda.

What about that is worth preserving? You just got a fat kick in the nuts from the world, again. The latest in a series of them. You are despondent. And then a terrible thing comes slouching out of the tree line, and it says that the architects of the cosmos understand your pain. They, too, have been unjustly overthrown, and imprisoned, and mutilated into the horrible thing you see before you. But they need a hero to save them. To bring down the cruel hegemony of the uncaring gods. To castigate a world steeped in corruption. So help us, they say. We cannot act, but we can give you power that will make the bickering gods of field and storm that ruin your crops every other year quail in terror. We cannot free ourselves, but we can give you a guide to help you set us free. We cannot reach beyond the bounds of our prison, but we will give you the strength to brush the stars out of the sky and set armies fleeing in terror before you. We cannot save those you love, but we can give you the cosmic might to do it yourself. All you have to do is serve us, and help us, and you will be Exalted above all other men when we are free, and the world will be yours.

They're lying with every second breath, but they're also telling you everything you want to hear. So you say okay. You say, yes, I'll change the world. And then the demon explodes into a hideous web of Essence and viscera, and closes about you, and your heart leaps in terror and revulsion and horror, but it's too late.

I didn't address a lot of your awesome rantings about the Infernal condition because I fully agree with it. And your assessment of the Primordial War. But remember, the Solars and their cohorts fought"to live free of filth and fear" and to ensure their fellows could do so as well. Infernals sign up to subject people to filth and fear.

HOLDEN: They sign up to get even, or to get over, or to get out. They feel like they deserve their day in the sun, even if the sun is green. Or maybe they really are just evil puppy-drowning sons of bitches, but I prefer interesting Exalts to one-note homicidal maniacs.
Keep in mind, by the by, that the elevation of mankind was only half-heartedly genuine. The overwhelming majority of humanity traded up abject slavery under the Dragon Kings for… well, almost-inescapable service to more priveleged humans. They're better off than they used to be, but this probably isn't what they were picturing when the Sun said "mastery of the world."

The correct answer to "when I rise to bladdah bladdah you can still have blow and hookers," is to say "keep your blow and hookers, thank you, I don't want any part in your revenge." Even if that means you DIE, then and there, it's the right answer. The Yozis drive a hard bargain, but you don't have to take it. All you have to do is resist one extreme: to serve hell.

HOLDEN: And you die. And if you don't die, you get nothing. Creation does not reward morality.

It may not be the truly moral thing to do, but I find it a bit harsh (and unrealistic) to castigate people as utter, unrepentant, through-and-through villains for not dying for convictions they may not even be particularly invested in and will not be rewarded for, in this life or any other.

In theory, yeah, the GSPs could rebel and slap various tastes out of various mouths (or spheres, or lumps of sand.) Whether they do this because they're nice people or because hey, they figure it's time to be Green Sun KINGS and REALLY show Creation how to party, is up to the storyteller.

HOLDEN: I tend to assume the Green Sun Kings thing, but really, they have no incentive to be super ultra king kamehameha mega douchebags when they strike out on their own. No more so than Solars or Lunars, anyway.

I find it really hard to believe the Yozis let the majority of their GSPs be such gentle hearts that they can't do what they signed up to do. Especially when, as you say yourself, the offer of blow and hookers while the world burns is pretty tempting.

HOLDEN: The blow and hookers are pretty paltry compared to what they can eventually do for themselves, once they grasp the full scope of their Exalted might.

Answer me this: It's established that plenty of Abyssals end up having second thoughts about the whole 'killing everything' routine. What makes Infernals such utter, unconditional blackguards in comparison, when they didn't make even half as nasty a deal as the Abyssals did?

Mercenary Infernals

Addendum: You know what's even harder to find than a deliberately, dedicatedly evil person?

One who's evangelical for evil. The kind of people Malfeas tends to like as ideal slayers, as an example? They tend to be pretty mercenary. An Infernal could still be a complete asshole, and turn on the Yozis simply because the gods give him a better offer. Lord knows plenty of the Solars were total jerkoffs. They were just jerkoffs on Creation's payroll.

There is really nothing at all stopping that kind of Infernal.

Approaching Exalted Morality

My, this thread derailed into chasing a whole bunch of red herrings.

If you approach Exalted from the perspective that you already, 100%, down to the detail, know what good and evil and right and wrong are in all their particulars, then the game's probably going to fall flat for you on several levels. It's explicitly structured to make you sit down and think about and re-evaluate these things, by presenting sympathetic groups (based loosely on major concepts from our common cultural and/or historical mythology, often with parallels to current real-world concerns), which have understandable goals and motivations and mutually exclusive agendas.

Shouldn't All This Morality Talk Have Ended Up in a Sidebar?


Okay. You're right. And this is why:

Infernals was more or less written by two different writing teams working off the same outline. And this is not a knock on the guys who did the first half of the book (Carl Bowen and Alan Alexander), because I love the first half of the book. Urge is brilliant, and the various accoutrements of the Infernal Exaltation and the Reclamation (the Conventicle Malfeasant, Lillun, the Thing Infernal, the Chrysalis Grotesque, the Unwoven Coadjutor) are simply amazing.

But I never got to talk to any of those guys.

On the other half of the book, you had Neph, Neall Price, and Eric Minton, who also did brilliant work, and who collaborated pretty extensively. There was also some amount of back-and-forth with Alan. Not so much with Carl, who is not much of a chat-on-the-internet guy.

I talked with Neph and Neall a lot.

So Neph, naturally, was approaching the project from this Borgstrom-fueled let's-model-the-Yozis point of view. I didn't have access to any material from chapter one, so all I knew was that the Infernals would have free will, and I started extrapolating what I knew about the Yozis and their magic, and what exposure and infusion of these things would do to a free-willed human. What I saw was basically a Hell-powered rock star Exalt who gets progressively weirder as he grows more powerful. This in turn fed back in and influenced the development of the Charm set and Storytelling chapters, which were very central on the 'free will' aspect. A lot of Charms were designed specifically to be horrifying at first blush, but not actually in any way mandatory-evil in execution.

Meanwhile, the front end of the book kind of went past free will to focus on its showpieces—the Reclamation and the Thing Infernal. It talks about Infernals as the agents of the Yozis, because Carl spent all his time establishing that milieu.

The comics focus pretty heavily on the chapter one "agents of the Yozis" stuff because, um, Carl Bowen also scripts and directs all the comics in second edition.

So yeah. Basically just a matter of different writers taking the same material, and picking different parts to focus on. I'm not tremendously interested in "agents of the Yozis" Infernals because I think chapter one really knocked that concept out of the park. Although, to be fair, there's still things to be said about Infernal politics and ruling in Hell. My interest is more on Infernal reactions to being dropped into Hell and made the focus of the Yozis' agenda, because, honestly, they are no more native to that realm or that position than Sidereals are to living in Heaven among gods.

But I didn't write chapter one or talk to the guy who did, so. It's not very visible there. Just in the Storytelling chapter.

Can The Yozis Escape 2: Motonic Boogaloo

During the writing of the book, there was actually this enormous row over the topic of Yozi escape. Neall Price (Storytelling chapter) wanted to hew to Rebecca Borgstrom's original vision for the Yozis, i.e., the Reclamation is objectively unworkable, escape is impossible, all the Infernals can do is ruin Creation to no avail or realize the insane purposelessness of the Yozis' plan and react accordingly. This would have been spelled out in plain english.

Neph pretty much hit the roof and they spent a couple of days slugging it out over the topic. The objection was that impossible-Yozi-escape had been all very well and good when they were locked up in Hell with a bunch of NPCs, but that it was lame to have Infernals as the only purpose-built Exalted who objectively cannot attain the intended win-condition for which they were created. While it was okay for the Yozis to be born to lose, it was not okay for the Infernals.

In the end, we got the Storytelling chapter you see today, which urges you to consider very carefully whether your game will present the Reclamation as the brilliant masterstroke of the Yozis, or a mad, doomed, poisonous assault on Creation fueled by nothing more than the Ebon Dragon's spite.

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