Exalted: Manual of Exalted Power, Infernal by CAPSLOCKGIRL
Backstory that probably won't interest you but that you need to know to understand what is going on.Original SA post
For a while there there was a group of freelancers called the Ink Monkeys writing up Exalted errata and charms and such; they were officially sponsored by White Wolf, so they occasionally printed actual WW material that had just gotten cut.
According to them, a huge chunk of the Infernal charms that went into the Manual were made by a single guy, and not only that, but in the time it took to put the rest of the book together he made so many of them that the Broken-Winged Crane is basically just a compilation of some of his stuff that got cut from the main book. And even after that there were enough interesting charms left over that the Ink Monkeys felt it necessary to publicize them.
I like to think that, having been informed he was going to be writing Infernal charms, he drank several bottles of vodka and locked himself in a closet for a week, and when they finally managed to prise the door open they discovered him passed out with his eyes open and a pile of d10's clenched in his fist, rules text and mote costs scrawled in chicken blood across every available surface.
Ah, the Ink Monkeys. I could do a whole post on one of Holden's posts alone.
Do Alchemicals because that was my group's final straw to go 'fuck this series', throw up our hands and storm out
Oh, I'll be getting to that, but I have far much more to say about Infernals. At any rate;
Introduction : or, Backstory that probably won't interest you but that you need to know to understand what is going on.
Exalted. It's a very polarizing game, which I imagine is a term that gets applied to a lot of roleplaying games. Some people love it for the absurd levels of power that player characters have access to right out of the gate, the amazing feats that are accomplishable with relative ease, and the wealth of freedom that is allowed in selecting your powers. Some people hate it for... largely the same reasons. Both groups can usually agree that the rules are godawful and combat is a quagmire, but I'm not really a rulesey person.
It's had a lot of sourcebooks realeased since the start of Second Edition in 2006, covering everything from detailing locations and time periods to incredibly unbalanced martial arts styles, but what I'm looking at at the moment is Manual of Exalted Power, Infernals, one of the sourcebooks covering new Exalt types (I'll explain in a bit). Now, it's not totally terrible. The mechanics are held back by the horrible Exalted system, but they're okay on their own and are very well balanced, which is more than I can say for a lot of other sourcebooks (I'm looking at you, Scroll of the Monk ). The section on charms is is full of interesting new charms and has a new system that works well for Infernals, and the section on Helltech and Infernal Artifacts is the best part in the book, but I'm not going to be covering those chapters. I'm going to be looking at chapters One and Two, which are... well, you'll see.
Now, this book assumes that you know most of the story of Exalted off by heart, but trying to explain the history of Exalted would need a review of it's own, so here's a cliffnotes version; A first, there was nothing. Then then, shaping themselves from the formless nothing, the Primordials decide that nothing sucks, so they create Creation. Feeling pretty full of themselves, they fill Creation with lots of stuff, including humans, create Gods to make sure everything is left in order, then leave to play the Games of Divinity (Imagine World of Warcraft being pumped directly into your veins). After a few million years, the Gods realize that they're the ones in charge of Creation, but under a Geas from the Primordials, can't do shit to take over. So the Unconquered Sun, Luna, and the Five Maidens (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn), being the most powerful of Gods, tear off a bit of their souls, then tear those bits up into tinier bits, and then shove those tiniest bits into the most awesome mortals they can find, granting them godlike powers and the ability to fight the Primordials. Long story short, the Primordials lose, the dead Primordials becoming the Neverborn (Don't ask), and the Primordials who surrender are gathered up, their King, Malfeas, is turned inside out, and then shoved inside himself with the rest of the prisoner Primordials, collectively becoming the Yozi, with Malfeas becoming the Exalted equivalent of hell. We're going to be focusing on the Yozi, but there's still a little bit of relevant history left to cover.
Fast forward a thousand or so years, and the Solars are kings of Creation. However as Primoridals died and became Neverborn, they cursed the Exalted, causing all Exalted to eventually turn into douchebags. The Solars, leaders of the Exalted armies got the worst of the curse. The Sidereals, Exalted of the Five Maidens and guardians of the Loom of Fate, notice from the Loom that if Solars continue going the way they're going, it's likely that they're going to fuck over creation. Instead of fucking talking to the Solars (Which I suppose is understandable, Solars being the insane God-Kings that they were), they decide to massacre the Solars, and their Lunar Exalted mates, for good measure. The Lunars escape into the borders beyond creation ( DON'T ASK ), but the Solars are massacred to a man, and their essences are trapped in a Jade Prison near the Elemental Pole of Earth at the center of creation, to prevent them from seeking out new hosts and Exalting them (They do that when their current host dies, by the way). Another thousand years or so pass, (You're not missing much, only a plague that wipes out 90% of creation and an invasion of Fae, nothing really relevant), until the Yozi come up with a plan to steal and corrupt the trapped Solar essences. With the help of the Deathlords (Solar zombie goasts under the command of the Neverborn), they crack the Jape Prison, but due to a goof on the Deathlord's part, they only get half of the shards, the rest finding new hosts, the Solars reentering Creation once again. Not wanting their shards to escape, the Deathlords build Soulsteel cages for them, releasing the stolen shards only when they find a mortal worth of Abyssal Exaltation. The Yozi? Well... we'll get to that. At any rate, that's where the world stands at the moment.
Back to the book at hand, the comic that opens the book is quite possibly the most uninteresting comic that's ever been in the introduction of one of the Manuals, and really sets the stage for the remaining two chapters. The Core Book of Exalted opens with a group of Solars bringing a rogue god to justice for his crimes, and hunting down the leaders of the criminal syndicate that drove the god to do what he did. Lunars opens with a Lunar, Strength of Many, freeing slaves, dragging them to safety through a desert, and saving them from incredibly powerful Dragonblood Earth monk. Dragonblood opens with an an Dragonblood warrior disobeying a direct order and charging back into battle, her regiment undermanned and outgunned to defend wounded soldiers while the rest of the legion she's part of retreats. Infernals? A group of Infernals and Demons effortlessly steamroll over helpless mortals and find an extremely powerful magical item, in addition to the several they already seem to have. I'll expand on why this really sets the tone for the rest of the book when I get to it, but just remember this comic for now (And remember that two pages after it, there's a comic about a mortal who has tirelessly researched about found out the truth behind an Infernal's background, but he's about to get effortlessly killed anyway!).
The introduction to the book itself is inoffensive enough, but in the glossary there's an interesting definition for something that I won't cover in this reveiw itself, because it's in one of the good chapters;
Manual of Exalted Power: Infernals posted:
vitriol : ...The dark liquid is a transcendent acid infused with the consumptive hate of the Yozi that consumes all it touches. When properly purified, however, it catalyzes and transforms materials into their core essence.
Which is funny, because vitriol is all I have for the upcoming two chapters, and we're going to be looking at how the core of this book is fucking rotten.
UP NEXT: Part 1 : or How I learned to stop worrying and love the Pedophillia
How I learned to stop worrying and love the Pedophillia.Original SA post Part 1 : or, How I learned to stop worrying and love the Pedophillia
So, last time I vomited forth a wall of text detailing a very basic history of the world of Exalted, and this time, we're going to be looking at Chapter 1. Such is the bile that this chapter contains, I'm not going to be able to geth through all of it in one post. There is one paragraph in particular that I think I'm going to have to spend an entire post on, but I'll get to that when we come to it.
Opening the chapter is the comic. It's this comic that's really the warning sign of the utterly foul things to come. I'm not going to post in in fears of being NSFW (Feel free to look it up for yourself, of course), but suffice to say, an obese, naked child is lifted up before a crowd of demons while quietly begging for her father to save her. This is Lillun, and unfortunately, this isn't the last we're going to be hearing of hear, unfortunate both for us and for Lillun.
The the chapter proper begins explaining that after they were imprisoned inside the body of their king, the Yozi didn't do much for a long time, which is about as riveting as I sounds, before the Ebon Dragon (The embodiment of Chaotic/Stupid Evil/Stupid) made contact with the Neverborn, and learns of the Great Curse (The aforementioned curse that will cause all Exalts to be douchebags). Learning of the Great Curse, the Ebon Dragon... does nothing. Soon, the Sidereals and their Dragonblood lackeys start murdering all the Solars and Lunars, causing Malfeas and the Ebon Dragon to take notice and... do nothing. Finally, the Ebon Dragon notices the Jade Prison (The thing containing the Solar Exalt shards), and starts scheming on how to crack it.
Taking his plan on how to steal the Solar Exaltations to his fellow Yozi, most of them... do nothing. There's a couple of reasons I like the Neverborn as villains more than the Yozi, and this is one of them. However, four other Yozi decide to join in on his plan, and start studying the prison. Once they figure out how to crack it and steal the Exalt shards, employing the help of the Neverborn and the Deathlords, they destroy the prison, and divide the 150 souls they captured amongst themselves. Sound boring? Imagine reading this, but with more words.
Finally, after wasting three pages, it gets on to the nature of the Infernal Exalted. It starts off with some metaphysical crap about the mechanisms of the Exaltation, which is incredibly uninteresting, but mentions something that I'm going to expand on later.
Manual of Exalted Power: Infernals posted:
(The Infernal Exalted) are beholden to the desires of the ones who built creation, and now want it back to do with it as they will. When they defy their masters, they suffer for it.
Now, this is something that's reflected in the mechanics, and as said the mechanics are fairly solid, but what you need to know right is that the Abyssals have something that's almost exactly the same , but better. I'll go into why later.
Now, the shtick of the Yozi is that they can't re-enter creation until it's been tainted to suite them, so they need the Infernal Exalted to do it for them. However, the obvious problem with this is that they need mortals to turn into Exalted, and there aren't exactly many mortals who would want to corrupt their world and let demons take over. Once again, this is almost exactly the same problems that are faced with the Abyssal Exalted, and once again, the Abyssals handle it better, and unfortunately, I'm going to have to leave that point there once again, because the book is about to get classy .
Exaltation shards automatically search out mortals to Exalt, and they do this by finding mortals with great destiny, waiting until they accomplish something amazing that proves they deserve the power offered by Exaltation, then Exalting them, giving them amazing powers (With the type of amazing feat being different between different Exalt types). Now, since the Neverborn and Yozi don't want to leave this kind of thing to chance, they've created ways of controlling the Exaltation until they find the right mortal for their needs. The Neverborn and Deathlords use Soulsteel coffins that contain one shard each, and the Yozi use... Lillun. Essentially, they shoved all the shards inside her, and take them out/shove them back in as needed. The end result of which is that she's absolutely fucking insane, corrupted by the greatest demons in Creation, infested with unknowable diseases and her flesh covered with oozing orifices, her brief moments of lucidity making her life even more terrifying. To compound on this, her mother sacrificed her to the Ebon Dragon when she was 12, and her mind hasn't aged much since.
I feel the need to remind you at this point that you're supposed to want to play as Infernal Exalts. I also feel the need to remind you that the Abyssals are supposed to be dire, morose, Emo Evil Exalts, whereas the Infernals are supposed to be a flipside to that, a Saturday Morning Cartoon Villain evil.
Ah, but we haven't finished with Lillun, oh no, this book hasn't even begun to get classy. If you are at work, I highly recommend you look away from the screen and scroll down. Heck, I'd advise not looking at what I'm about to quote wherever you are.
Manual of Exalted Power: Exalted posted:
Gone is the beautiful 12 year old girl girl whose flesh the Ebon Dragon refused to mar with his fangs as he carried her to hell in his mouth, even as his tounge s tore away her clothes and explored her succulent flesh.
In the nWoD book, Changing Breeds (Which is being mocked by the enigmatic Daeren!), there is a paragraph that describes the joy of bestiality. The moment you realize what you're reading, you're one line into it, and you skip ahead, trying to forget what you nearly read. This is like that, only by the time you realise what it's about, it's over, and you can never forget it .
Do I really need to go into this? Do I really need to remind you that you're supposed to want to be Infernals? That you're supposed to want the Yozi to succeed? Do I really have to describe how fucking childish this is, throwing in some pedophilia purely for the purpose of showing how EEEEEVUL your character is? Shit in a biscuit, I'm 5 pages into this thing and already we're down to the level of FATAL, with some bumblefuck trying desperately to prove that this is a MATURE GAME FOR MATURE GAMERS SUCH AS MYSELF.
But we're we're not done with Lillun yet, not by a long shot.
UP NEXT: Part 2 : or, I was bullied in school, and I don't understand the setting of this game in the slightest. Sign me up as a writer!
I can't think up a funny title for this one because I have to delve into something that doesn't really work well with entertaining titleOriginal SA post
I think the greatest crime of Infernals 1 and 2 is that it keeps the core themes of the type a secret. This is the big secret: you're not actually meant to hang around with the Yozi. As the line proceeded and books like Broken-Winged Crane came out, it quickly emerged that the intended story arc for Infernals is rebellion, and then picking the heresy charms that break you free from yozi control and allow your character to personally become a primordial. The core totally fails to represent this, which pisses me off to no end because the idea of making a Faustian bargain and then punching your way out of it is pretty rad. Writing this melodramatic is painful; more painful is all the wasted potential for those two chapters.
It is not impossible to play a loyalist Infernal. Just impossible to play a loyalist Ebon Dragon Infernal.
Part 1.5 : or I can't think up a funny title for this one because I have to delve into something that doesn't really work well with an entertaining title
See this? This here? The poster is totally correct in every regard, and not only that, allows me to bring up some points that won't really fit into the rest of my review of these chapters (In an extremely roundabout way).
Let me explain what I'm getting at here.
See, possibly one of the main themes of the Exalted setting is that there are no heroes. Villains aplenty, maybe, but there's a lot of well written villains in this setting. Even the Solars, literal embodiments of perfection and virtue, are not heroes. It's plain to anyone with fucking eyes that the Solars are not explicitly heroes, considering that a major fucking part of the backstory is that the Solars needed to be stopped and imprisoned otherwise they would destroy reality .
This isn't a bad thing, by any means. In fact, this is one of the series greatest strengths, that there is actual, honest to goodness moral ambiguity.
The most recent writers, Holden Shearer in particular, do not understand this. More on that later, but when I review Alchemicals, we're going to see that they want the Solars to be the Heroes of the setting, and are willing to railroad and write as shittily as possible to make sure this happens.
Back to the quote that started this, but, as said, if you're reading MoeP: Infernals, and you're not a terrible person , the only character that you'll want to play is an Infernal that is rebelling against the Yozi. Going back again , and you'll remember that I've been hinting to the fact that the Abyssals do just about everything the Infernals do, but they did it earlier, and better. Chief among these things being the fact that in the book, following the Neverborn and being a rebel are both equally valid character options.
But oh no, the Ink Monkeys couldn't have that , no, that would mean that their precious Solars aren't the absolute heroes of the setting, oh no. See, the ultimate path of being a rebel Abyssal is redeeming your Exaltation in the eyes of the Unconquered Sun, which is the kind of thing that entire freaking games are made of. The Manual of Exalted Power: Abyssals goes out of it's way to explain the massive scope of this, how incredibly difficult it would be, and how it should be something that's personally handled between Storyteller and player.
The 'official' errata, however? Not only did they give fucking rules as to how you're supposed to go about this, but they do everything but flat out state that redemption is the only worthwhile Abyssal character choice in their eyes . Don't believe me? See for yourself.
I hope you see what I'm getting at. In a very broad sense, it's that, while ragging on Infernals about flat out stealing from Abyssals, I wish that they had stolen more . I didn't want the Infernals to be stupidly evil, I wanted them to be villains I could relate with. I wanted to read through that book and have two character ideas at the end of it, one loyal to the Yozi, and one rebelling against them, and have them both equally valid character choices within the setting. And maybe with a little more effort and a little less pedophilia , they could have accomplished that.
In a more direct sense, however, what I'm trying to get at is that Holden Shearer is a dillweed .
I was bullied in school, and I don't understand the setting of this game in the slightest. Sign me up as a writer!Original SA post
Chicken Slayer posted:
I thought they changed it to "Exalted is a precursor to our world" or something. But yeah, it means a whole lot less now than it used to when they kept inserting gems about Authocatonia and whatnot.
Also, going through the Infernal book again, you absolutely have to cover the Acts of Villainy segment. It's the Worst/Best.
I'll see. I'm planning on doing two posts to do tonight, simply because I've already vomited once today dreading the second post I have to do, wanting to get it over with, and I just... I might not even continue this after that one, but we'll see.
At any rate.
Part 2 : or, I was bullied in school, and I don't understand the setting of this game in the slightest. Sign me up as a writer!
So, last time, we had... tongue s . I'd like to say that we could forget about that, or that you're free to try and forget about that, but you're going to need to remember that fact and remember that we're going to go downhill from there.
Now, finally we're at the part of the book that starts talking about the Infernals themselves, and this is where I'm going to start addressing those 'Like Abyssals, but worse' comments I made last time. Now, as I said, the way that Exalt shards choose mortals is looking for those with great destiny, and waiting until they do something that proves they deserve the powers the Exaltation grants. Solars must prove that they're able to break the bounds of human perfection, Lunars must prove that they're willing to do whatever it takes to defend something that is dear to them, etc.
Now, like Abyssals the Yozi faced the problem of finding mortals who wanted to kill the world. But whereas the Neverborn/Deathlords solved this by finding those whose destiny had been cut short by death (Or cutting that destiny short themselves in secret), the Yozi solved this by finding mortals who don't deserve godlike power in the least. Not even kidding.
Basically, the Yozi rip the Exaltation out of Lillun and stuff it into one of their demons, and send this demon out into creation. The demon is summoned to Creation by a Yozi cultist, and starts looking for mortals with great destiny, like normal Exaltations, and waits until the mortal is in a moment of great stress that will test them to their core. However, instead of choosing those who are able to step up to the plate, the Exaltation chooses those who fail. And now we're getting to why I titled this post what I did.
See, when Abyssals are Exalted, they're contacted by the Neverborn/Deathlord in charge of the Abyssal Exaltation, who tells them exactly what's expected of them, and gives them the choice of Exalting or not. You also need to remember that Abyssals have their destiny cut short by another. They could have been heroes, but someone else intervened. What I think is an excellent example of this is a comic from the Abyssals book, wherein a gladiatorial contestant was in a fight with another gladiator, and despite the fact that the fight wasn't to the death, he's killed by his opponent anyway, his opponent later becoming a Zenith Solar, one of the Solars that are supposedly paragons of Virtue and restraint. Thrown into a muddy ditch and left to rot, he's visited by one of the... Neverborn, I think, and granted the choice to become an Abyssal, which he takes to wreak vengeance on the man who killed him (It's a lot better done than this condensed version gives credit for). While this system of Exaltation can be criticized for lending itself to melodrama and CRAWLING IN MY SKIN, generally it gives the Abyssal Exalted a good reason for wanting to destroy the world, and can lend weight to the stories of Abyssals bent on redemption.
However, the Infernals are given the choice to fulfill their destiny, and don't. They just... don't . This is what they book says, the demons are specifically looking for people who flat out refuse to step up to the plate. Remember how I complained how they were steamrolling over mortals and pretending they were big shit for doing it? Remember how I said that this would really set the tone for the Infernals? Yep. Usually the reason given is that the mortal is too cowardly but the book gives some other reasons and just... urgh. You see where I'm thinking the author was bullied in school? Solars, and really, all other Exalted, would not only fight off bullies, but they'd fight off bullies that were covered in spikes and flamethrowers with their bare hands, and the bullies wouldn't have even been beating on them in the first place, but they'd probably have been ganging up 3:1 on some kid that the would-be Exalt doesn't even know , who is three grades younger than the kids whaling on him. And after that they'd haul the bullies to the nurse's office on their own. That is the very essence of Exalted, proving that you deserve the powers you're given, by doing amazing things without them.
The whole Infernals thing is the antithesis of that, and if someone says that being the antithesis of Solars is the point of Infernals, fuck you , Abyssals are supposed to be the antithesis of Solars too, which is now yet another way in which Infernals are like Abyssals , but worse (Fluff-wise). Would-be Infernals would run and hide from the bullies, wishing they had the powers to cream the bullies without even thinking about it. Scratch that, they'd join the bullies in beating on someone smaller than them, wishing they had the power to cream the bullies, the kid they're beating on, and the rest of their school because he's not the popular kid. This isn't being awesome and being rewarded with supernatural power for being awesome, it's being awesome because you have powers, which I thought that White Wolf had grown out of with the advent of nWoD. It's an exercise in writing a character who doesn't deserve the powers he's given in the slightest, a character you're supposed to be able to relate to and roleplay as. I need to bring up again at this point that you're supposed to want to play as Infernals . I'd say something along the lines of 'How did this get past an editor?!', but...
Anyway, after all that, there's a long section on how Infernals have free will ( THIS IS IMPORTANT, REMEMBER THAT INFERNALS ARE EXPLICITLY STATED TO HAVE FREE WILL ), lots of dry, uninteresting text on what Infernal Exalt types do what and what their respective Yozi usually want them to do (Malfeas likes to smash things! Ebon Dragon likes being Chaotic Stupid and/or Stupid Evil! Imagine these but with more text), a section on the Infernal's place in Hell/Malfeas (They're allowed to largely steamroll over hordes of unimportant demons and do whatever the fuck they want for the most part!), before finally we get to The Thing. The Thing is a sort of Carnivale Infernal that is held whenever a new Infernal is Exalted/whenever the fuck they feel like having a wild kegger. It goes into a lots of detail about how The Thing is actually fo reels really important in that it's where Infernals can go to settle their grievances, through debate or ordeals, whether those ordeals be archery contest or whatever. And we're stopping here.
Why are we stopping here? Because we're about to experience, and I state this without fear of hyperbole, one of the, if not the worst
UP NEXT: Part 3 : or, Wherein I make like a citizen of the Candy Kingdom and flip out.
No, you don't understand, I'm going to flip outOriginal SA post Part 3 : or, No, you don't understand, I'm going to flip out (Warning, this post is not safe for work in the slightest!).
Allright folks, this is it, this is the chocolate. This is the lowest point in the entire book, and it's only four fucking words. Up until now, I'd like to think that I've been able to criticize this book in a largely calm and rational matter(With some exceptions), but I can only calmly discuss what I'm about to talk about for so long before I flip out.
(As an asides, watching an episode of Adventure Time in the background is how I'm getting through this. That and chugging some Stoneleigh Marlborough. At any rate.)
Okay, enough procrastination, I gotta do this. Allright... if you remember last time, I left off right in the middle of The Thing, the Infernal version of a wild kegger. I was right in the middle of explaining how the book paints this as being really important for Infernals because...
I have to explain that I work in childcare before I do this, okay? Maybe this is hitting me harder because of that, but Christ on a cracker, I have a hard time seeing how anyone wouldn't think that what's coming up isn't one of the most disgusting things in the world.
Okay, okay. The Thing is supposedly really important for Infernals because they can address grievances with others of their kind there, and one of the ways they can do this is through ordeals, tests of endurance. This unholy fucking grimoire of a book gives a couple of examples of ordeal, like being filled with arrows, standing in acid, and... and;
Fuck this book. posted:
having sex with Lillun
having sex with Lillun
At least it didn't flat out tell you that you might be expected to rape a small child, and not only that, but THAT YOU'RE EXPECTED TO MAKE A FUCKING COMPETITION OF IT.
Shit in a biscuit , never have I seen such a disgusting crime be so trivialized. You remember how I didn't want to show the Lillun comic because of how disgusted I was? Fuck you .
Censored for your convenience, but I can only do so much .
Being expected to, as a character, have sex with her is disgusting . Not only on the level of her appearance, but she's helpless , moreso than just that she's a fucking child , but she's stuck there, she can't do anything , go to anyone for help...
YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO WANT TO PLAY INFERNALS. WHICH FUCKING EDITOR OKAY'D THIS? WHO THOUGH 'GEE, THE INFERNALS ARE MISSING AN EDGE OVER ABYSSALS. OH, I KNOW, THEY CAN HAVE A CHILD-RAPE TOURNAMENT '.
You know what's the worst? What's the absolutely fucking worst?
That's what Lillun has been reduced to. That's the same level this DICKLESS WONDER of a writer puts one of the most disgusting crimes a human being can commit on. And that's the same level of maturity that's shown in this book
This isn't mature. This isn't even fucking childish . This is a complete and total lack of understanding of basic human empathy . They just throw this one line in there and run away giggling and yelling; 'THIS IS HOW EEEEVUL THE INFERNALS ARE, YOU SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED THIS BECAUSE THIS IS A MATURE GAME FOR MATURE GAMERS SUCH AS MYSELF'. This is absurdly evil, something that should require a fucking paragraph explaining how stupidly evil this is an how only the most inhuman and demonic Exalts do. This is the kind of thing that The Dowager Of The Irreverent Vulgate In Unrent Veils would slap your shit for.
The final thing? There is nothing saying 'you should not do this in game'. No warning to players that they would be the worst people in the world for suggesting this as an ordeal. No warnings to Storytellers that they should slap a player across a fucking room if they suggest this. They could be leaving this up to common sense, but then again, they were the ones that wrote this , so all I can assume is that they genuinely thought that players would want to do this in-game.
Fuck this, and fuck this book. This is not only a stain on this book and it's otherwise excellent mechanics, but on the entire godamm Exalted line.
UP NEXT: Part 4 : or, It's all uphill from here, but then again, I'd fucking hope so .
Why hard copies will always be superiorOriginal SA post Part 5 : or, Why hard copies will always be superior
I've been trying for the past couple of days to continue writing about this fucking book, but honestly, the rest of the book is uphill from...
Well, we all know what it's uphill from, lets leave it at that. I'm just awful at calling something bad when I have something worse to compare it to. I have problems calling Duke Nukem Forever bad because I've played Final Fantasy 13, I have trouble saying that the Twilight movies are bad because I've sat through Birdemic, etc.
Chapters 1 and two are still fucking awful , don't don't get me wrong. They're still poorly written, immature and disgusting, with broken mechanics thrown into Chapter 2, but they're not Child Sex Olympics bad. Which makes the fact that the remaining chapters are passable/good all the more the shame.
At any rate, there's a reason I prefer my RPGbooks to be hardcopies rather than digital versions. Sure, digital copies are cheaper and have less printing errors. Sure, they usually have exellent bookmarking systems and hyperlinks can let you jump around the book to relevant sections. Sure, they're easier to store than huge, honking, heavy hardcopies. But...
...there's something that's just so much more satisfying about hardcopies.
Chapter One PostmortemOriginal SA post Manual Of Exalted Power: Infernals
Chapter One Postmortem
So, last time on our adventures, we had just finished with the worst thing in Exalted, ever, period. Unfortunately for us, the second chapter remains to be dealt with, and that means I've got to go back into the first chapter for concepts that'll be referenced later. Unfortunately, Lilun will. Fortunately, the Grand Celebration Where A Mutated, Horribly Obese Child In Constant Pain Is Gang-Raped By A Bunch Of People You, The Player, Are Supposed To Be One Of, Who Keep Track Of How Long Each Other Can Stay On Like It's A Fucking Rodeo Or Something is thrown into the memory hole never to be seen, heard from, referenced, thought of, or even acknowledged to exist by anyone, ever.
Let's just allow ourselves a moment to purge ourselves of that last sentence, and of whatever it might have been referring to.
Ssso, Infernal Exalted are a new development. Back inna day, when the Yozis wanted a mortal champion they hollowed out his soul and jammed him full to bursting with infernal power. This had the side effect of completely eliminating their free will and making them reliant on constant babysitting from the Yozis not to fuck up. These are the Akuma.
Yeah, it's kinda like that.
The Ebon Dragon, the embodiment of backstabbing treachery and thus very good at telling when he might get backstabbed or betrayed, figured out that the Akuma had a critical weakness aside from the whole no-free-will thing: the gods could order the Yozis to shut them all down. This is the only reason that She Who Lives In Her Name, another of the Yozis, finally gave in and agreed to let Infernal Exalted have free will.
We skipped over the profiles of the rest of the big four of the Yozis, so I'll get that out of the way. The Ebon Dragon, we already know, is the embodiment of backstabbing, treachery, flaw, and corruption. (A good hint at why Operation: Make Infernal Exalted is doomed to some sort of spectacular failure: it was his idea.) But the other Big Four start becoming important to the story here, so we might as well explain them.
Malfeas, the Demon City: Back in the day, King Of The Universe. The guy who made the Unconquered Sun, God of Being The Best At Everything Forever (at the Ebon Dragon's insistence) because the Gods deserved to have a king to rule over them just as Malfeas reigned over the primordials. Now he's the Demon City, consumed with self-loathing for allowing himself to kneel to another and be imprisoned, and so layers of the Demon City are constantly crushing each other. He's big, he's bad, his brothers and sisters were imprisoned because he failed them as their King and when he regains the crown it will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. Ligier, the Green Sun on which the Unconquered Sun was originally patterned, is his heart.
Cecelyne, the Endless Desert: Back in the day, peacekeeper of the primordials. She had an intricate system of laws set up that'd keep the primordials from unwriting vast swathes of Creation whenever they got angry with one another. Now she's the desert that lies between Malfeas and Creation, and has learned courtesy of her imprisonment that all law is facile lies to cover 'the strong do what they will.' Her priesthood, into which any of her Infernals are automatically entered, is basically Alpha Complex from Paranoia. An example: The laws for which any demon can be killed are printed on blue paper; the first law written on them is 'any demon who reads the holy blue paper must be put to death.' She wants all Creation to understand that strength is the only true law, and that by that token the Yozis run it.
Adorjan, the Silent Wind: Back in the day, the moat between Creation and Chaos, carefully self-designed to murder anything that tried to invade Creation very quickly. When she was imprisoned she had no boundaries anymore. She's murder-buddha, seeking to enlighten all by silencing them forever. She actually doesn't blame anyone for her imprisonment- it was an enlightenment for her, and she sincerely hopes to share it with everyone, given time. Her love means she'll kill you. Her hate means she'll kill you slowly. Her disgust, fortunately, means she'll mostly leave you alone- and music disgusts her. As a result all of Malfeas is covered in clangorous music, all with the intent of keeping her away.
She Who Lives In Her Name, the Principle of Hierarchy: You know the 'perfect universe of crystal spheres' idea? Yeah well in Exalted this control freak of a primordial was the reason. She designed the laws of physics, she designed the celestial spheres, she created a Perfect Hierarchy that would explain how everything would interact forever, and then free will went and fucked it all up. As far as she's concerned, the fact the universe was capable of producing something that could overthrow the Yozis was due to a flaw she was -forced- to insert into creation by her superiors, and her single overriding goal is correcting it.
We then go into which parts of the map which Yozis focus on, which is something nobody really cares about unless you're running an Infernals game. If at this stage in the book you are still seriously contemplating this, given the things that destroyed my illustrious predecessor's will to continue, you need help.
Key points: Adorjan hates the icy north the least, Malfeas wants the parts with the most humans and cities kneeling to him, Cecelyne wants the part with the most deserts to become all desert, She Who Has An Annoyingly Long Name wants the part with the least humans so she doesn't have to work too hard to get rid of all their free will, and the Ebon Dragon's working on the part most susceptible to backstabbing, treachery, and corruption.
Fascinating. Who cares? Nobody! And so ends the first chapter.
Tune in next time for Chapter Two: Servants of the Yozis! 100% Fewer Children, 200% More Rape!
100% Fewer Children, 200% More Rape!Original SA post Chapter Two: Servant of the Yozis
100% Fewer Children, 200% More Rape!
Quick refresher on the Infernal Exalted: so the Yozis got their hands on 50 Instant Awesome, Just Attach To A Mortal kits, fucked with them a little so they could control them, then sent out their minions to people in creation who could have earned Exaltation legitimately but for whatever reason didn't.
These people are then told by a demon 'hey, yeah, you could have been unfathomably powerful but the Powers That Be fucked you over. Fortunately, they fucked over some -other- people back in the day and they want to give you a second chance. Only catch is you've got to do some work for them in return. Interested?' If they say yes, staple Infernal Exaltation to them, gross shit happens, and then voila, they're a Hero of Hell, given all sorts of neat shit on being welcomed to Malfeas, and then kicked back out into creation with a mission to do something. Also they get free tickets to the once-a-year thing we've conveniently forgotten.
But fifty people is a little light as far as servants go for the Imprisoned Masters of Creation. They've got other people, and that's what this chapter discusses, as well as all the different paths that might lead someone to throw in with the Yozis, and by all the different paths I mean five of the seven examples relate directly to rape in one form or another.
First off, we have the story of Gorol, the First Akuma. Long story short, dude was one of the Exalted who killed a Primordial and something about it brought him around to the idea that killing the Primordials would ruin everything forever. So he sought out Malfeas and said "hey boss I'll work for you." Malfeas said "Hell yeah, let me just scoop your soul out and jam you full of My Incalculable Might. Your purpose for living: Break Us Out Of Me Somehow." As Malfeas would not know subtlety if it bit him in the face, the first Akuma went from being a silent, stealthy assassin to being a MWAHAHAHAHA-level crazed monster. He was a damned impressive crazed monster, to be sure, but subtle he wasn't, and while he learned a lot about the Yozis' prison he also got the shit killed out of him in a hurry, which pissed Malfeas off good and proper.
On the debatable plus side, though, paranoia about Akumas did lead to the Solar god-kings of the age going to such crazy excesses that their advisors hatched Operation Kill Them All Off For The Good Of Creation, so hey, progress.
Then we get told how becoming an Akuma works. Namely, it sucks, body's reshaped, soul's reshaped, the Yozis redefine everything about what you are to suit them, the phrase' "days-long rape of the soul" is used, I believe we can safely say that the process is unpleasant. Mechanically speaking, you gain a whole lot of power, and the ability to do things that you couldn't do before, I.E. mortals get bumped up to the level of exalted, exalted get bumped up to capable of hanging with Solars, and Solars become boss fights for other Solars.
Yeah, this looks like fun.
Also, the character's Motivation gets stripped away from them and replaced with an Urge granted by their Yozi patron- it's like a Motivation, only if you don't do it as an Akuma you go extra-crazy, and you can't ever change it unless you go through the whole 'days-long rape of the soul' schtick again, which Akuma tend not to want to do.
But enough of that! It's time for Example Akuma!
First on our list we have the Blood Queen! The priestesses of Ahlat, Southern God of War and Cattle, are referred to as his Brides. Unfaithfulness to Ahlat is punishable by death, and yyyyou guessed it, rape counts! So, Quiet Panther, very attractive Bride of Ahlat, couple of drunk Exalts, you can guess where this story goes. Gets informed "yup, you gotta die, we'll make it quick," escapes, prays for justice, Ahlat doesn't answer the prayers of those who've been unfaithful to him (Minor setting note: Ahlat's your good old-fashioned Mars-style war god: good guy to have on your side in a fight, but a RAGING asshole in any other context.), she ends up praying to ANYONE who'll offer justice, and one of the Yozis' subordinate demons shows up, saying "Yep. That's gods for you. Want to exact terrible vengeance?" to which Quiet Panther says "Hell yes" and goes through the aforementioned agonizing transformation into the Blood Queen. Her Urge is to end the worship of Ahlat, and there's a convenient picture of her topless, covered in blood, and looking pissed off. Stay classy, White Wolf.
Next up, we've got the Demon Pirate King! The book offers only a paragraph or two on Lintha Ng Hut Dukantha that concludes with "look we already gave you all the information on this guy in another book." Key points: He's from a pirate family that claims descent from one of the Yozis back before the Primordial War, he serves said Yozi, he's a pretty awesome warrior and leader, and his controlling Yozi doesn't let him out of Malfeas to lead his people often because she's afraid that the Gods will notice him and tell her to knock it the fuck off with this guy.
And concluding this subsection, we have Smug Guy Holding Rose, Maheka Damaj. His Urge: Taint the blood of the Terrestrial Exalted with that of the Yozis. Three guesses on how he plans on doing it!
Maheka Damaj, Supergenius posted:
-he was censured and forced to flee Lookshy in R.Y. 553 after authorities discovered scores of misbegotten children he had sired with various summoned demons and then condemned to experimentation and vivisection in the laboratories hidden beneath his manse. Investigators also discovered a number of heretical occult texts, as well as Damaj’s own personal diaries, which postulated that the vitality of the Terrestrial bloodlines in Lookshy was certain to wan over time and that the only way to preserve the dominance of Lookshy’s Dragon-Blooded population was through controlled interbreeding between Exalts and demons.
Yes, you guessed it, summoning demons and getting people to fuck them! Good job, we've now pulled to an even 50/50 rape-related Servants of the Yozis. We're also informed that he actively sought out the Yozis and suggested the form that his Urge should take. So, let's recap:
You Might Want To Become an Akuma if:
-You're suffering from PTSD after killing a fundamental principle of the universe
-You've been raped and your god wants to kill you for it
-You're a really talented member of a clan that worships the Yozis
-You think forcing people to have sex with demons is in their own best interests.
Fuck yeah, sign me up.
Let's keep rolling, shall we? Maheka Damaj thinks that fucking demons will produce super-exalts. Why might this be? Well, turns out that if you're descended from a powerful enough demon, you get some pretty sweet powers! Take it away, Hellspawn subsection!
Each Hellspawn is the bastard offspring of a mortal or Exalt who has mated with a demon. Some Hellspawn are the product of violent rapes committed by rampaging demons who escaped their bindings. Others are the issue of cruel seductions by demon temptresses or hypnotic incubi. Still others are borne of deliberate design, sired by thaumaturges and sorcerers who have summoned demons for the express purpose of birthing these powerful children as servants. Other than the manner of their creation, there are few meaningful distinctions between Yozi-Kin and Hellspawn.
Excellent, what Exalted was missing was an entire category of supernatural rape-kids. Who's ready for examples? I know I'm not, but it's time for you to suffer along with me!
Joyous Gift, whose name, we are informed, is a bitter irony, happened when the demon Mara, Eater of Souls, for some reason decided to impregnate a grieving widow. (A side-note informs us Mara's female nature did not offer a barrier to this union, because demons. Capslockgirl's question about how female Infernals are supposed participate in the Thing We Have All Agreed To Ignore can be considered safely answered.) Said widow freaked the fuck out, ran away to a new town, became a whore, gave birth to her daughter, caught the eye of a local craftsman, and left her daughter behind in the whorehouse to marry him when Joyous Gift was seven.
Ssso it took a whopping year before Joyous Gift got pressed into service at the whorehouse, she was demon-blooded so she took it like a champ (why thank you, White Wolf) and by 19 she was the most popular hooker in the city. A local God of Slavery now patronizes the establishment regularly, promising he can fix the whole demon-ancestry thing, and uses her as a personal assassin as well as a source of some. We are assured that 1. he can't fix the whole demon ancestry thing 2. when he reveals this he thinks he's going to break her into his slave forever 3. he's going to find out that she could probably take him out shortly thereafter 4. if Mara ever finds out and her daughter hasn't killed the Slave-God by then, Mara Will.
Mature Gaming, ladies and gentlemen!
Next time, finishing off chapter two: Would You Like Some Bestiality With Your Demon Rape? I Sure Hope So!
Would You Like Some Bestiality With Your Demon Rape? I Sure Hope So!Original SA post Chapter 2.2: Servants of the Yozis
Would You Like Some Bestiality With Your Demon Rape? I Sure Hope So!
Exalted features a demi-metaplot, in that there are Iconic characters for each of the splats and classes. They show up in chapter introductions from time to time, doing things. Naturally, the Solar ones get the most screentime, and for reasons largely beyond me Harmonious Jade, the Iconic Night Caste, gets the most screen time of them all. To be fair she -is- a black woman with super-stealth powers, a neat bow, and a backstory that involved working for a Yozi cult before she Exalted, but for some reason every one of the splatbooks save Sidereals features her facing off against one of the new Icons. I mention this 1. because the chapter intro comic for this chapter was her facing off against the iconic Fiend (Corrupted Eclipse Castes, Chosen of the Ebon Dragon, and competitive with Ahlat, the Bronze Faction Sidereals, and pre-Usurpation Solars for the title of Pettiest Assholes In All Creation) on a rooftop 2. because the following guy was her boss back when she was working for the Yozi cult, and any opportunity to mock metaplot should be taken advantage of.
Yozi-Kin are like Hellspawn, only instead of having demon powers up ins from conception they get them granted later. Confusing the issue, our example Yozi-Kin is (you guessed it) a demon rape baby! He just got extra power given to him later.
I would sum up the Spider Prophet, but I had to read the following paragraph in full, and so now you do too. For reference purposes: demons come in three sizes/power levels: regular, extra large, and Bigger Than Jesus. Dog-spiders are regular, Sondok's extra large, and Malfeas' heart is Bigger Than Jesus.
The man known as the Spider Prophet is an oddity among
the mortal worshipers of Sondok, for he began life as the
Hellspawn offspring of another unrelated demon. Specifically,
his “father” was a powerful dog-spider demon summoned into
the service of a Dragon-Blooded sorcerer of House Cynis who
directed the demon to rape several members of the household
staff—not out of any scientific curiosity but merely because one
of the Cynis’s parties had grown dull, and the Dragon-Blood
wanted to liven things up with a demonic sex show. The Spider
Prophet’s mother was driven insane by the experience, and she
fled the household in the night, eventually finding sanctuary
in an Immaculate temple. Nine months later, the poor woman
died giving birth to a son, and the monks, completely ignorant
of the infant’s demonic heritage, soon placed him with a local
couple who were unable to conceive.
Oh yeah, also House Cynis is a noble house of the Dragon-Blooded Exalted whose entire gimmick is "We Throw Orgies." Yup. That's the purpose of an entire noble house. Exalted, ladies and gentlemen. So yeah, mom gets raped into insanity by a dog/spider demon because a party was getting boring. Off to a good start with this guy, aren't we.
So we learn that as he went through puberty he 1. figured out his parents and everyone else freaked out when he started climbing walls and deploying extra sets of legs 2. figured out he had hypnosis powers so noone gave a fuck. The cult of Sondok found him and said "You're awesome and all, but we can make you even cooler if you swear allegiance to Sondok." He did, he was made more awesome, he's now got even more spider powers and also the ability to see the future. Eventually he figured out that he'll die as a result of one of his servants betraying him for the Unconquered Sun. One day Harmonious Jade Exalts as a Night Caste, and comes to her master for guidance. Our buddy Spider-Man panics and orders her killed. She, being a Night Caste, escapes, blowing up most of his organization in the process. Spider-Man realizes "wait shit I just fell victim to Predestination 101 didn't I. Fuuuuuck." Clearly this work of creative genius required a dog-spider to rape someone into insanity in order to bring it into being.
Seriously fuck this guy.
Mechanically speaking Yozi-Kin and Hellspawn are identical: you can buy dots in a pair of backgrounds that indicate how close you are to your Yozi patron and how much power they've granted you personally, respectively. The first is stolen directly from a table in Abyssals; the idea being that [# of dots in Patron] per session you can convert your dots in Patron: Unfathomably Powerful Being into equivalent dots in Allies, Artifact, Backing, Command, Contacts, Cult, Familiar, Followers, Henchmen, Influence, or Resources- at the cost that with more dots comes the master's expectation you're there to do whatever they ask whenever they ask it.
The second indicates Bonus XP/Build Points You Get To Build This Character, with the trade-off being how noticeably you're, y'know, demon-kin.
If these were buyable with XP they'd be unfathomably stupid as opposed to just kinda dumb. As the appropriate side-table was not reproduced in this one it's EXTRA dumb. However, in the side-table where Patron was originally introduced, it was established that Storytellers should work out with players how many dots in Patron they have, and not charge XP or Build Points for them. You don't get XP for dropping dots in Patron, you don't pay them to increase.
It's a great mechanic for "you've got unfathomable power backing you up at the cost of you doing what it wants" and as such should be a matter of player-DM consensus.
This nuanced explanation, of course, is not included. Instead it is explicitly categorized as a binary "DO AS YOUR PATRON SAYS OR FALL, PALADIN."
At the risk of repeating myself: Fuck this guy.
Then, last but certainly not least: what, you thought demons only fucked humans? Not so! Devil-Beasts are like Hellspawn, only they're animals. They're brighter than your average bear, and also more dangerous, but they're still basically animals at heart. Most of them, because the Dragon-Blooded were not idiots, are put down the second their awareness becomes common knowledge, because fuck that shit.
Your example? Once Upon A Time, a pre-Usurpation Solar summoned up an Extra-Large Demon and all her offspring regular-size demons to build a
So, the demons are trapped in Creation, permanently materialized, permanently imprisoned in some remote valley in the North. And momma, it turns out, gets horny. Christ I wish I was making this up. Her kids won't do it for her- can't, actually, given the way she built them- so in the name of keeping momma happy,
We will now pause and contemplate the instructions the artist who drew the above picture received. Those of you wishing to pray for death may also take this opportunity to do so, we only ask that the author of this chapter be included in your prayers.
The resultant monsters, no two of which precisely the same courtesy of momma trying not to fuck the same animal twice, are called Ice Eaters. Since they're the offspring of an Extra Large (Second Circle) Demon, they've all got Essence 3, none of them have an Intelligence score lower than 2 (human average) and they don't die of old age. As a result, since momma's been stuck in creation for 1500 years and pops out a litter of them every year, there's a LOT of the bastards around the Invisible Fortress now.
Chapter 2 ends with a couple of new and exciting mutations available to the Yozi-tainted, none of which are noteworthily terrible. Praise the deity of your choice.
Next time: Chapter 3: Character Creation ! Slap Some Evil On It Or Else They'll Realize We Literally Copy-Pasted This From The Core Book!
Chapters One/Two PostmortemOriginal SA post MOEP: Infernals
Chapters One And Two Postmortem
I believe I speak for all right-thinking people everywhere when I say this, particularly the bit at 1:08.
As the old Monty Python bit goes, the person responsible for these chapters was sacked. The person who greenlit his work, well, who the fuck knows. You may, with good reason, ask "Why the hell would anyone continue with this sort of bullshit." Fortunately, for purposes of continuing, we're going to make use of one of the treats in Chapter 5.
Infernal Charms are separated by Yozi instead of by Ability, and one of my personal favorites is a social defense, brought to you by Malfeas' Nightmare Fugue Vigilance sub-tree. With that charm under your belt, you can pick up Solipsistic Rejection of Impossibilities. Malfeas knows, as the fundamental principle of dominance, that his is the only viewpoint that matters in the universe. With this Charm an Infernal can tap into that same colossal certainty to ignore another's point of view no matter how persuasively argued- with minor side effects, of course, since the Yozis don't like it when their Exalted disobey orders. Even if the orders aren't their own. Any time someone with this Charm would use willpower to avoid falling victim to a social attack, they can instead gain a point of Limit.
So, faced with the impossibility of an RPG company letting chapters one and two out the door without being ripped to shreds by an editor, we can safely act as would the crazed, self-loathing, inside-out demon emperor, and ignore it forever as something that clearly would not exist in a sanely designed world.
It's time for a more simple degree of bad. It's time for the crappy mechanical bits.
Slap Some Evil On It Or Else They'll Realize We Literally Copy-Pasted This From The Core BookOriginal SA post MOEP: Infernals
Chapter Three: Character Creation
Slap Some Evil On It Or Else They'll Realize We Literally Copy-Pasted This From The Core Book
Having consigned everything we learned in the first two chapters to the dustbin of Terrible, it's time to start in on the less terrible.
To start off, it's literally this, with the exception that the presentation of the Iconics comes later.
Character creation, mechanically, is utterly identical to Solar character creation, aside from two additions and two different sets of description. We'll save the meaningful one for last.
The first and laziest of the changes is as follows.
Dawns (Fight-monsters) are now Slayers powered by Malfeas.
Zeniths (Talk-monsters) are now Malefactors powered by Cecelyne,
Twilights (Think-monsters) are now Defilers powered by She Who Etc Etc,
Nights (Stealth-monsters) are now Scourges powered by Adorjan
Eclipses (Leftover Bunch of Skills, given ability to break game in unique and exciting ways as recompense) are now Fiends powered by the Ebon Dragon.
The second of them is talking about Virtues. Hell's got the same virtues as everywhere else, but they've got a TOTALLY DIFFERENT INTERPRETATION OF THEM which they really fucking don't.
Compassion represents not love so often as obsession.
High-Compassion Princes fixate on the well being of those
they care about, sometimes by becoming stalkers or by “helping”
a loved one in a way that would shock or horrify her.
I think you grab the general idea. Conviction equals single-mindedness sans empathy, huge change there. Temperance equals devotion to 'what's really important' no matter what said thing might be. Any overlap with conviction is clearly the fault of you the reader. Aaaand Valor represents the willingness to use force to assert your dominance.
They haven't changed, they've still got all the problems PurpleXVI mentioned, and the 'alternate interpretations' are really just tremendously poorly done.
In a lazy but sort of interesting addition, Infernals get three extra free Backgrounds at character creation: one dot in Backing from their Yozi patron (redeemable for Cool Shit when in Malfeas), one dot in Influence among demons descended from that Yozi, and one dot in Cult, representing your share of the worship directed at your patron Yozi. I kinda like this, it does a good job of mechanically backing up 'You're the favored children of Hell.' without overpowering the fuck out of the splat relative to others.
And then the interesting one. Okay, so, remember back when I was talking Akuma? Soul hollowed out, days long rape of the soul, etc, etc, sacrifice your Motivation and in exchange get an Urge, a command you have no choice but to obey?
The Yozis might have left your free will intact, but they aren't stupid enough to think you're going to do their bidding by carrot alone. You also have an Urge. There is a command from your Yozi Patron (important note: your Patron and the Yozi who powers your caste can be and frequently are different) written into your very soul with letters of green fire, and refusing to work towards it has Consequences. We'll learn more about what those Consequences are in the next chapter- and more importantly, how to avoid them.
If you thought Virtues were rife with potential for player agency abuse, the Urge is explicitly a device for the DM to drag his players around by the nose. In and of itself, the Urge is a really shitty mechanic. As we'll see, as the designers were quasi-merciful, and so the degree of shittiness swings all the way back the other way to 'almost completely pointless, RAW.' However, that is for next time!
Next time, Chapter 4: Traits! How Many Shitty Mechanical Ideas Can We Fit Into One Chapter? Let's Find Out!
How Many Shitty Mechanical Ideas Can We Fit Into One Chapter? Let's Find Out!Original SA post MOEP: Infernals
Chapter 4: Traits
How Many Shitty Mechanical Ideas Can We Fit Into One Chapter? Let's Find Out!
Where chapters one and two were infuriating, chapter 4 is just kinda dumb. Here you start to see flashes of genius, and more frequently have them squashed under really stupid mechanics.
We start off with New Backgrounds. Anyone who's played a Storyteller game knows Backgrounds; you get X number of dots in miscellaneous neat resources of one kind or another you've picked up. Previous splats have included Backgrounds that serve no purpose but to harm you. (Hi, Solar Bond!) As such, the Infernal added backgrounds are not so much terrible as they are just kinda dumb.
Familiar : You can have a demon familiar instead of just having a magic rat or something. Yaaay.
Past Life : Okay, so Solar Exalted retain some of the memories from their past lives. Lytek, God of Exaltation, carefully prunes out bits he doesn't think new Solars particularly need (like, say, their previous incarnation's will to dominate any mental conversation) so that every reincarnation is a new version of the hero's story.
For obvious reasons, Lytek isn't consulted re: Infernal Exaltation. No, that's in the hands of the Ebon Dragon, and the Ebon Dragon in a move so painfully characteristic it hurts said "well there's no chance giving them unrestricted access to what they used to be could backfire on me."
Mechanically, a number of times equal to a player's Essence per session, they can add their Past Life score in dice to any roll they're making. The price you pay? If you ever botch a roll augmented by Past Life, or -succeed- a roll by enough that if it had been a Social Attack it would beat your mental defense value, your past Solar self starts fighting you for the driver's seat. You've got to spend a Willpower every time a chance to advance past-you's Intimacies or Motivation comes up, and any efforts to work towards your Urge eat a [PAST LIFE SCORE] dice penalty.
It's an interesting idea. There is no reason to ever, ever take it, because anything you'd ever want it for is something where beating your own Mental Dodge Value is practically guaranteed.
On the other hand, the Savant background indicates PERFECT FIRST AGE MEMORIES that -don't- try to get in the driver's seat, evidently because nerds suck. Whatever don't pay attention too closely, just take it if you want to be good at making/corrupting First Age Magitech and move on.
Spies , while not inherently stupid, is being added to a system that already has Influence, Contacts, Backing, Face, and Patron as backgrounds that all add up to "you know people who know people." Kiiinda superfluous.
Unwoven Coadjutator is an interesting idea, decently implemented, but I end up against it on the whole. Infernal Exalts are given a choice by a demon whether they want the Exaltation or not, with the fact that if the mortal says no the demon will kill them diplomatically kept out of sight. If the mortal says yes, the exaltation is delivered courtesy of the Yozis welding the demon directly to their soul, and the Exaltation with it. This is how the Yozis track your progress; there's a piece of them literally welded to your soul. Dots in Unwoven Coadjutator indicate how helpful the little bastard is to you. No dots indicate it never speaks/never says anything useful and so you tune it out, one dot indicates it sometimes shares what it knows about Malfeas with you, two means it'll tell you anything you want to know that it knows (which is quite a bit,) etc, etc. Nice little bonuses indicating you've got a second mind operating behind your own, and it's got tricks up its sleeve.
The issue I have with it is, again, it's so unnecessary. You can just say the Yozis have a telepathic link to you that they jammed into the Exaltation. Unwoven Coadjutators are a solution in search of a problem- narratively speaking they're basically just Familiar again.
But now. Time for the big section.
So. The Urge is the mechanism by which the DM gets to lead you around by the nose. We learn that each of the Big Five works with a very specific category of Urges; if Malfeas assigns it it's always got something to do with destruction, Cecylene dominion, SWLIHN stamping out free will and forcing conformity, Adorjan obsession, and the Ebon Dragon corruption. We're assured that if your Urge ever 1. gets fulfilled or 2. becomes impossible to fulfill your Unwoven Coadjutator will redefine it, or just come up with a new one, perfectly in tune with its Yozi master. It works exactly like Motivation for purposes of Essence regeneration, Willpower regeneration, and stunting purposes. That's the carrot. Here comes the stick.
The Yozis undid the Great Curse on their captive Exaltations, in favor of applying a leash. Infernal Limit works as follows: suppressing their primary Virtue gains them a point of limit, acting contrary to their Urge gains them a point of Limit, and any attempt to resist an Unnatural Mental Influence (no matter who from: the Yozis don't want their minions getting used to ignoring voices in their heads. This is an intensely stupid justification.) gains them a point of Limit.
Reminder: Infernals still have their own Motivations. If their Motivation comes into conflict with their Urge they will ( mechanically ) be infinite-Limit generating batteries, and that's Bad.
Because when your Limit hits 10, the wrath of the Yozis makes itself manifest- in a way much less easily abused than the Abyssal version of the same thing. An Infernal does not Limit Break. No, the fact that the will of the Yozis has been defied by one of their servants sends a bit of their characteristic reaction to being defied down your way.
Poor bondage nun. Don't worry, she gets better. And you will learn exactly how.
Piss off Malfeas, and you come down with a case of berserker rage that's contagious (and will make everyone who catches it want to kill you first). Piss off Cecylene, she'll just try to tear you apart. SWLIHN gives you contagious absolute sociopathy, Adorjan will render you totally unable to communicate with anyone, at all, as well as making you give off contagious hysterical deafness and dumbness, aaaand the Ebon Dragon's reaction to getting pissed off is to make you contagiously incapable of doing anything but indulging in your favorite vice for a day.
As a bonus, any intimacies of which the Yozis disapprove of can be made subject to their Torment. When an Infernal Exalt limit breaks, entire sections of the map go crazy.
Thankfully, the Ebon Dragon figured that this miiiight draw unwanted attention, and so presented the following idea: as the Infernal Exalted are punished for defying the Yozis, so too are they forgiven for emulating them.
Acts of Villainy allow an Infernal, once per session, to roll a Virtue associated with an act that is totally in tune with one or more Yozis. Examples include: Malfeas lets you roll Valor to reduce Limit when you leave an obvious calling card at the scene of an atrocity, or openly tell those who oppose you where you're going to be in X length of time. SWLIHN, who is not in the least full of her own genius, will gladly let anyone roll Temperance to reduce Limit any time they explain their diabolical plan to a captured prisoner. You get the idea. If it's comedically, classically villainous, one of the Yozis is down with it, and if you can combine multiple Snidely Whiplash classics together into one megacheesy thing you can roll the cumulative total of all the different virtues you use.
If you don't do this on a regular basis, your life as an Infernal becomes very difficult very quickly.
So, as long as an Infernal Exalted makes a special point of combining as many of 1. threatening captured prisoners with an overly elaborate deathtrap
2. while explaining their plan
3. while saying where they will strike next
4. with the intent of driving the subject crazy
5. working marriage in somehow
6. preferably to an enemy they've deliberately left alive because they're just so much fun to fight
as possible at least once per session, they will never, ever have to worry about Torment.
On the one hand, this is a much more interesting mechanic than the Abyssals' "let off an Underworld-scented fart every time you gain a single point of Limit, ignore Neverborn forever" one* but the other hand's a bit of a doozy. The fact that it's so effective at bleeding off Limit renders all the effort involved in a Limit system, an Unwoven Coadjutator to watch over it, an Urge system, and vast swathes of the entire core concept of the Infernal Exalted pretty pointless, and replaces it with "Act like Snidely Whiplash, avoid getting murdered by your bosses."
Make no mistake, as a mechanic for making people act like Snidely Whiplash in the course of play it's great. It's just that while it's an idea that sounds fun as hell on paper, the eighth time that someone at the table launches into their appropriate schpiel so they don't have to worry about paying attention to their Urge at any point in the next month of gametime it gets old.
That aside, we get introduced to the full-on caste writeups and our proper introduction to the Iconics. Lacking names for them I dub them as follows: the Slayer is Beefchest McAxehaver, the Malefactor is Bondage Nun, the Defiler is the Crab-Handed Mummy, the Scourge is Evil Guybrush Threepwood, and the Fiend (wearing considerably more clothing than she was when we saw her in the Chapter 2 intro comic) is Indistinguishable From Any Other Ninja In Creation Girl. Aside from their fluff, which is pretty boilerplate "They Are Like Their Solar Versions Just Evil," we also learn what happens when they're lit up like christmas trees with essence expenditure.
Slayers get scary, making anything with Valor less than their Essence (I.E. basically everyone in Creation in a real damn hurry) so scared of them it's harder to hit them.
Malefactors get a kind of neat one: they can spread the Endless Desert once per day with a successful sacrifice (of a sentient being) in Creation. Succeeding on the roll creates some nice unholy ground good for summoning demons, getting prayers to the Yozis answered, and making holy stuff less effective. Also, they can channel raw Yozi to make them better at punching/being punched by gods and the Solar Exalted.
Defilers get the same old 'break combat in half' power that got erratad into 'get wizard vision.'
Scourges get the same old 'don't have to glow like a christmas tree when using charms' power with a bonus 'make everything within [essence] yards of you silent' one.
And Fiends, because the Ebon Dragon is eternally a prick, as recompense for the terrible Eclipse skillset get to break the game slightly more than Eclipses usually do. Aside from being able to learn other splats' charms and consecrating oaths just like Eclipses can they have a bonus power: the Ebon Dragon was before the gods in whose name the Eclipses consecrate oaths, and while the majority of the loopholes he wrote into existence got caught by the Unconquered Sun there's still quite a few of them out there. Fiends can call on his power to unconsecrate oaths- provided, of course, the Fiend's got more Essence than whoever consecrated the oath in the first place.
As with everything to do with the Ebon Dragon, though, there's a catch. Doing this costs a Fiend a certain amount of essence that needs to stay committed to keeping the oath broken. At their discretion, and usually from quite a long way away, Fiends can reapply the original oath and reclaim the committed essence, usually while watching the beneficiary of their kindness go up in flames.
Looking back over this chapter, it's nowhere near as terrible mechanically as, say, the same section in Exalted core. It still contains large swathes of pointless and dumb stuff. Fortunately, it's all about to be left behind us. We are entering the legendary Good Part of this book, the part that was so good it actually made people who'd read the first two chapters say "yeah I know those are terrible but you really ought to buy it anyway."
Next time, Chapter 5, Charms! The Part That's Actually Pretty Cool!
*Okay so it works like this: the Abyssals have a similar 'do shit that pisses off the bosses, suffer horrible things' effect. The catch is that whenever an Abyssal wants to they can vent Resonance, suffering a DM-selected bad effect that scales up with the amount of limit they currently have. The I've-only-got-one-limit effects are pretty much totally ignorable. As a result, RAW the only thing keeping Abyssals from going renegade is not wanting to constantly vent small amounts of residual death energy wherever they go.
The Part That's Actually Pretty CoolOriginal SA post MOEP: Infernals
Chapter 5.1: Charms
The Part That's Actually Pretty Cool
What is a Charm, metaphysically speaking? It's a way around the conventional laws of the universe. A way of causing the will of the person possessing it to be made manifest in a specific way without causing irrevocable damage to the fabric of Creation.
The Yozis do not have Charms. The Yozis -are- Charms. The first Primordial was the one who imposed the concept of 'a thing that is beyond change' on a formless sea of chaos: Oramus, the Dragon Beyond The World, conceived the idea of Beyond-ness, and made it so. Gaia imposed the concept of that thing's permanence, and became Creation. Malfeas was actually a latecomer to the project: he became Malfeas on one of the Primordials (probably Cecylene or SWLIHN) observing 'there should be one who directs us.' They are not metaphysical shortcuts, they are the foundations of metaphysics, and just because they can't rewrite the entirety of creation at a whim anymore doesn't mean they don't still have all that power.
Infernal Exalted tap into that: a power, older, greater, and stranger than even the God of Being The Best At Everything Forever.
Some minimal fluff is included at the beginning. Evidently the big draw of the Green Sun Prince project for the Yozis, aside from the whole "we get our own Exalted, that's pretty sweet" thing, is that Infernals will act as life preservers for the Yozis. She Who Lives In Her Name has calculated that even if any of the Big Five were subject to repeated fetich death (the name for the Bigger Than Jesus soul that defines the core of what a Yozi is; Ligier, the Green Sun, is Malfeas') they wouldn't be subject to the absolute nightmare that is existence as a Neverborn*. They'd live on as a part of the Infernal Exalted. This is kinda sweet. An extra bonus, figured out by the Ebon Dragon, is that when an Infernal Exalted designs and learns a new Infernal charm, the appropriate Yozi learns it too.
That's your fluff: time for the core mechanic of the line.
All other flavors of Exalted base their Charms off Skills and Abilities in one way or another. The Primordials did not think in terms of skills and abilities- they simply Are. Where they Are, they are close enough to omnipotent to see it on a clear day. Where they Aren't, they're helplessly lost, incapable to even comprehend attacks coming at them from such directions. (This, incidentally, is how the Solar Exalted killed them.)
Infernal Charms are not organized by skill or ability, but rather by Yozi. (Every Infernal has two Favored Yozis: the one who's their Caste's patron and the one who gave them their Urge. If the two are the same, you're free to assign the Favored Yozi bit freely among them. Favored Yozi reduces the cost of buying charms as if they were associated with a favored skill/attribute.) and the core of all Yozi Charm Trees is the First Yozi Excellency: [Yozi] Essence Overwhelming.
Excellencies are a pretty basic concept present in all other lines: pay motes of essence, buy bonus dice in an area of expertise. The Yozis don't have areas of expertise. The Yozis Are. And so, appropriately, the Infernal Exalted tap into that.
The First Excellency can be used on -any- action that falls into what the Yozi in question Is.
As an example:
Malfeas Is posted:
the Fallen King, arrogant, cruel and given to excessive displays of obvious force for the chance to show off and the sadistic joy he feels when enemies and allies look upon him in awe and terror.
Malfeas Is posted:
Vast and full of hate toward those who betrayed and imprisoned him, seeking vengeance with indiscriminate callousness to the collateral damage he inflicts on the innocent.
Malfeas Is posted:
Resilient and strong enough to lift the world or crush it underfoot. The green fires raging in his heart blight the very Essence of everything they touch, marking the world with his wrathful glory.
Malfeas Is posted:
Authority over all things wise enough to bow before the world’s creators.
Malfeas Is posted:
The ostentatious or overkill approach over merely adequate solutions.
Any time you display one or more of the above traits- not all, heavens no, though the more of them you display the more eligible you probably are for a Stunt bonus- in an action, you can use the First Malfeas Excellency. There is a catch, though, because there is one big thing Malfeas Is Not: subtle.
Any intentional subtlety or display of restraint makes this Excellency inapplicable, including adding less than half the maximum possible dice bonus to a roll (rounded down). Note that force does not necessarily equate to violence. A forceful seduction in which an Infernal confidently orders a prospective paramour to accompany him rather than cajoling or flattering her can benefit from this Charm just as readily as a stomp delivered to a prone enemy’s face. Strangely, the power of Malfeas may also enhance any Performance action to dance or create music. These are the secret pleasures of the Demon City that embarrass Ligier.
Short rundown of the rest of them: Cecylene Is patience, planning, endurance, hypocrisy, wastelands, punishment, and the long, slow buildup to a sudden and shocking end.
She Isn't capricious; she won't help you out against random chance or undo master plans of others that aren't directly trying to fuck you over.
SWLIHN Is a calculating creator and a methodical destroyer, brilliant and remorseless, cruel but fair, and always uses the precise minimum force necessary to achieve her goals.
SWLIHN Isn't empathic (she's into perfection for the sake of perfection), half-hearted, or over-the-top. Excessive displays of force are a no-no. Given that a large part of Exalted's about excessive displays of force, this is probably the second most restrictive Isn't.
Adorjan Is caprice, restlessness, hunger, the unconsidered variable, insanity (all the Yozis are insane by mortal standards, but Adorjan embraces insanity where her siblings claim to be above it), vicious whimsy, and a great fan of directed chaos; chaos that exposes the flaws in systems and screws over the proud and certain. She's a homicidal flavor of love.
She Isn't a fan of things planned out a long time in advance, nor is she a fan of purposeless chaos: Adorjan Is, to quote the book,
the madness of the freed mind, not an idiot’s babbling.
The Ebon Dragon Is otherness, the Nemesis, darkness, corruption, hollowness and offensiveness, self-indulgent and conscienceless antagonism. He's the most dependable of the Yozis: to paraphrase Jack Sparrow, you can trust an untrustworthy man to be untrustworthy. As long as the Ebon Dragon knows he'll get more out of a deal than you will, he'll help you out. (HINT HINT, little Infernals.) You may, rightly, be thinking "Holy shit, 'antagonism' is one of his keywords. I can justify -any- action with that list of adjectives." Yeah, well, here come the catches.
The Ebon Dragon Isn't altruistic. You can never use his powers to help another if helping another won't help you more.
The Ebon Dragon Isn't honest unless honesty is worse than lying. You can never use his powers to augment telling the truth unless the truth will cause pain and suffering.
The Ebon Dragon Isn't straightforward. If an action does not display subtlety in some form or another, you can't use his Excellency.
I am -really- a fan of this one, because the Ebon Dragon Excellency is even mechanically designed to make you like unto him: in order to work around its restrictions and get at its basically-applies-to-everything Is-ness, you have to start thinking in a way that mimics, to quote a line later in the book, 'his principle of antagonistic cheating.'
This whole concept is goddamn neato. Your character has their own individual identity: their Motivation, their intimacies. But whenever you want to tap into the power of your masters, you must become as they are. And when you become as they are, you are a full match for any Exalt within an area they had to specialize.
Mind, you have to rebuy any First Excellencies you buy (yes you can buy the First Excellencies of more Yozis than just one) every time you gain an essence level. Otherwise you'd be a little busted charm-purchase wise.
Mechanically speaking this is genius: it makes Infernal Exalted fantastic generalists within a thematic space. Obviously, Malfeas doesn't exactly lend himself to sneaky types, and if you're a fan of the direct approach the Ebon Dragon is definitely not for you.
Next Time: 5.2: Notable Charms! Die of radiation poisoning, come back fully healed? Sign me up!
* okay it works like this. Primordials are outside death. They cannot be killed- the process does not work on them. During the Primordial War, the Exalted killed several of them anyway. The process of them trying to die and only partially succeeding fucked up the metaphysical plumbing system that is death real goddamn bad. The Neverborn are so named because they were not born and yet they died; they're the mostly insane husks of what once were Primordials, trapped in an eternal moment of just-pre-death agony. The only hope they have of achieving release from their condition is to slip into oblivion, but they're tied so strongly to their Creation they can't manage to do it. As such, they have come up with an insane collective plan: destroy everything they're still attached to about Creation, that being all of it, and in so doing free themselves to enter oblivion. The Yozis surrendered on grounds of REALLY not wanting that to happen to them.
Die of radiation poisoning, come back fully healed? Sign me up!Original SA post MOEP: Infernals
Chapter 5.2: Notable Charms
Die of radiation poisoning, come back fully healed? Sign me up!
Malfeas ' charmset has four impromptu subdivisions: I Am Crazy With Rage, I Am The Goddamn King, I Am Made Of Hate And Brass, and My Soul Is A Nuclear Furnace, all exploring aspects of the above. As an example, I Am The Goddamn King starts with Insignificant Embers Intuition: as the King of All
I am Crazy With Rage features the charm I mentioned earlier, Solipsistic Rejection of Impossibilities. Social attacks on an Infernal with this charm probably just make them (and their bosses) angry.
The thematics of I Am Made of Hate and Brass are my favorite, though. Malfeas' existence is agony, constantly trying to reforge himself into something mighty enough it could never be wounded again. Go down this tree, you get that: most of these charms are defensive in nature, but some of them give an Infernal some extremely limited ability to shapeshift (provided, of course, they're willing to suffer agonizing pain). Featured Charm:
Blight Internalization Transcendence
Remember how I talked about bondage nun, cancer, bangin' titties? Yeah, here we go. In fairness, I'm pretty sure I'd have that WTF-esque expression on my face too were this happening to me, especially the part where for some reason my shirt decided to fall off along with the cancerbits.
So you've come down with an illness, one that's even capable of infecting Exalted, and you'd like to be rid of it. Malfeas understands. Malfeas, too, hates any aspects of himself weak enough to ever be subject to another's aims, no matter how great or small that Other. Have a terminal case of Final Viridescence*, on the (world-sized, made-of-basalt-brass-and-green-fire) house. You will start to die slowly, in agonizing pain, but at the moment you would die all the cancerous growths will fall off to reveal healthy skin beneath, all the damage you took courtesy of the disease will be healed, and as a bonus you're completely immune to any illness at all (including Final Viridescence) for the next season.
Cecylene 's got a Keyword all to herself: Messianic. Messianic charms have a degree of extra bureaucracy behind them: you can learn them whenever, but they only -work- when you've got an appropriate Cult rating. Her Charmset has the following subdivisions: I Am The Law, I Am An Angry Desert, and I Am A Huge Fan Of Monkey's Paw Style Bullshit. A good demonstration of the latter:
Locust Mana Plague
Channeling Cecylene's aspects of hypocrisy above and beyond her aspect as the Endless Desert, the Infernal brings forth life from nothingness. Locusts crawl forth from the empty ground (like many of the Angry Desert and Monkey's Paw Bullshit charms, it can only be used in a 'place of desolation,' best defined as 'any place where starvation and exposure are leading causes of death') and die after a moment of wondering if there is any purpose to their existence, because even Cecylene enjoys the occasional laugh. Their corpses cover a radius of (Essence x 15) yards from the Infernal. The locusts smell and taste absolutely fantastic, and eating a dozen of them is enough to mean a grown man doesn't need to eat or drink for a whole day. Cecylene hands out mana in the desert like it ain't no thang.
Buuuut, every meal of these things somebody eats helps build an Intimacy towards loyalty to the Laws of Cecylene and to the Infernal who provided the repast. Eat them for a week, you become a Creature of Darkness. Eat them for a second week (and if the Infernal knows a second Charm) you mutate to become perfectly adapted to living in deserts in general and Cecylene in specific. Remember how Malefactors get the ability to make/spread deserts via sacrifices to Cecylene?
The devoted of Cecylene have a hard time -not- growing their cults courtesy of this baby.
(Incidentally, the writers are kind enough to mention that if the Infernal who summoned the locusts eats them, rather than develop an intimacy of self-loyalty they just feel smug as hell.)
She Who Lives In Her Name 's three subtrees are I Am Telekinetic As Hell, I Wrote The Laws Of Physics, and You Are Nothing More Than Discrete Units of Data Which I'll Edit As I Please. My favorite of these is her Perfect Defense, which is part of I Wrote The Laws Of Physics.
The Hierarchy is very clear on She Who Lives In Her Name being inviolate. As such, any attack on her will be undone by the Creation she wrote. The Infernal, under attack, reflexively rewrites Creation in a way that will stop the attack. Perfectly. The default way this happens is a crystal sphere full of fire appearing in front of the attack, breaking, and as it breaks screwing up space for a second or two, but if you've got the Charm you're encouraged to stunt it into more interesting things.
As a Perfect Defense, it suffers from its associated Yozi's Imperfection- none of that 'virtue flaw' bullshit here. The Imperfection of the Principle of Hierarchy is as follows. All things SWLIHN understands are lesser than her, and thus powerless against her. All things she does -not- understand totally don't exist until she understands them.
As such, this Perfect can't be used on something the Infernal's never seen before. Unfamiliar charms, combos, and surprise attacks will always pierce this defense. There's an exception to the rule, though: as the person who wrote the laws of physics, SWLIHN is capable of effortlessly and reflexively giving the burning crystalline finger to any creatures of the Wyld that attempt to fuck with the Hierarchy. It doesn't matter if an Infernal doesn't even know what the raksha are, Counter-Conceptual Imposition will shut them down.
Also the capstone charm of I Am Telekinetic As Fuck dips into the little used subtext of I Wrote The Laws of Physics: "And I'll Rewrite Them If It Suits Me." Constructive Convergence of Principles starts off as an Infernal being able to craft anything, including people, out of the Wyld. As they buy upgrades for it, though, they start being able to mess around with reality only partially tainted by the Wyld like it was the pure Wyld, and at full power they can rewrite existence well within the bounds of Creation as they damn well please. (We are informed that doing this last one sets off all sorts of alarms in Heaven.)
Adorjan has a couple of them. I Am (Obsessive) Love, I Use Insanity As A Weapon, and the threefold tree I Am The (Murderous/Silent/Really Goddamn Fast) Wind. Early on in this tree is a charm that gives running the same recuperative effects as a full night's sleep. It has a successor charm that gives murder the same recuperative effects as a full meal. But our example charm pair is the heart of I Am (Obsessive) Love: Freedom Lets Go and Tragic Love Amusement.
Freedom Lets Go lets an Infernal terminate any Intimacies towards someone at will, and regain one of their Compassion Virtue Channels the first time they do so in any scene. (Reminder for those of you in the audience: a number of times in a story equal to your score in a Virtue, you can add (Virtue) dice to a roll provided it's convincingly tied to said Virtue.) In and of itself? Eh. The fact it lets you forget all your interactions with that person makes it a good social defense, but really situational. Its successor charm, though?
Tragic Love Amusement gives an Infernal the ability to instantly (at a cost of four motes) fall sincerely in love with any given person. While they are in said love, Virtue Channels add successes instead of just dice if they're intended to aid that person, and the target's social Defense Value drops by the Infernal's Compassion when the Infernal socially attacks them.
Adorjan counts suffering and murder as a kind of aid.
A good Adorjan Infernal instantly falls in love with their enemies, uses the power of that love to murder them, then Freedom Lets Go-s the dying body to gain the ability to do it again. That is goddamned fantastic.
The Ebon Dragon has I Am As Vicious As I Am Petty, I Am Made Of Not-Quite-Empty Lies, and I Am Darkness. An early charm of his, one that is a prerequisite to almost all of his charms, makes it so 1. the Infernal can see through all darknesses 2. adds their Essence to attempts to expose others' manipulations 3. subtracts their Essence from any Charisma-based social attack.
To make that a little clearer: any time an Infernal with this charm, which is a prerequisite to the majority of the Ebon Dragon's charms, attempts to tell the truth rather than lie (you use Charisma when you're telling the truth, Manipulation when not) they eat their Essence in penalty. This means that the more powerful an Ebon Dragon Infernal gets, the more likely every word out of their mouth is a lie- the truth just cannot be believed when they try to speak it.
Now, that's neat and all, but you know how the Yozis are masses of Charms?
And -also- a giant city/endless desert/big ol' dragon thing/you get the idea? Where, you might ask, are the Charms that give them their forms?
Follow-up books gave them for all the rest of the Yozis. The Ebon Dragon's is core.
Black Mirror Shintai is the apex charm of I Am Made Of Not-Quite-Empty Lies, though it has a lot of other prereqs as well. It's most directly the successor of a charm that lets you learn a target's Motivation by giving yourself a Motivation diametrically opposed to it, and as a side effect giving you an Intimacy of spiteful hate towards them. It upgrades it as follows: you become that which you have decided to despise.
Black Mirror Shintai posted:
The Ebon Dragon is not the mightiest Yozi, nor the most
brilliant. Neither is he the most creative or cunning of the titans.
However, no other Primordial approaches his skill at cheating.
Among the Exalted, the Sidereals have come the closest to understanding
his principle of antagonistic cheating and fashioned
Obsidian Shards of Infinity Style* in the likeness of his unfairness,
but how well they succeeded remains as unclear to the art’s masters
as those unfortunate enough to encounter them. The Shadow of
All Things disdains their unintended offering as unworthy, but
gratitude must never be his nature. Purer understanding of the
Yozi reveals that the mirror of adversity does not exist outside
the self, but pretends to exist within.
Mechanically speaking, the Infernal becomes the targeted entity (Who must be of equal or lower essence, and not significantly more powerful than them. This is important to prevent everyone who ever learns this charm becoming precisely as powerful as the Ebon Dragon) with one exception: his motivation is the opposite of the target's. Otherwise, you are explicitly treated as if the target's character sheet just became your own. No power save for Adamant Countermagic (only available to Solars, Abyssals, and Infernals who've dumped tons of XP into it) or the Infernal's will can undo the transformation, and the only way to tell the doppelganger from the genuine article is that the genuine article will no longer cast a shadow.
To be fair, it's not like the Unconquered Sun ever cast a shadow in the first place.
This is the charm that turned the Shadow of the Dragon into the Ebon Dragon. Because in the moment the Unconquered Sun was created, the Shadow of the Dragon turned the Black Mirror on it, and became its equal in all respects save one: where the Unconquered Sun sought to shepherd Creation as the paragon of all virtues, that all who dwelt within it might reach their full potential, the Ebon Dragon would seek to ruin it, and reign over a broken world where his will alone defined possibility.
As a tool for the players, it's an excellent way of doing the We're Not So Different, You And I routine with an added degree of being extra-terrible.
Next time! Chapter 5 Postmortem! What They Did Right That The First Two Chapters Did Horribly Wrong!
* It's radiation poisoning. Charms down the My Soul Is A Nuclear Furnace tree let you inflict it on others for the crime of 'having looked at you while your anima banner was glowing. ever.' Charms down the I Am The Goddamn King tree let you magnanimously decide not to do this to some of them.
* That's a shot at one of the worst-busted things in Exalted: the Scroll of the Monk. It was a splatbook, and it featured a lot of Martial Arts that were broken, but the pinnacle was Obsidian Shards of Infinity Style. All attacks directed at a master of the style are redirected to hit someone else. The only thing the master needs to know about that someone else is what their name is. They don't need to be in the same room, on the same continent, or even to have ever met. They can do this with every attack directed at them. If you play in a game where someone lets you use Obsidian Shards of Infinity Style, it is only out of contempt.
What They Did Right That The First Two Chapters Did Horribly WrongOriginal SA post MOEP: Infernals
Chapter 5 Postmortem
What They Did Right That The First Two Chapters Did Horribly Wrong
Let us now temporarily remember once more that chapters one and two happened. Let us now circle them, mentally, and compare them to the past chapter.
I repeat here and now the received wisdom re: MOEP: Infernals. As White Wolf was undergoing
Chapter 5 is widely credited as having saved the Exalted product line. The concept of the Infernal Exalted, as backed up mechanically by their charmset, breathed new life into a community that was running out of steam and hard. The mechanical flaws in the system had become blatantly obvious, and prior splatbooks had rarely done anything other than make the problems worse.
Lunars were a thematic mess, and so too were their Charms. Abyssals were an early attempt at a villainous splat that had suffered greatly from "all your powers are Solar powers only EEEVIL. Also dark." Decently balanced, but really, really boring, and also came complete with a whole series of Ways For Your Bosses/The DM To Completely Fuck You Over If You Irritate Him. You think "serve your gods or fall, Paladin" is bad, how's "your NPC bosses have the ability to instantly kill you from any distance, for any perceived or imagined fault" sound.
The Sidereal charmset had been an absolute failure of design mostly copy-pasted directly from 1E, and the Scroll of the Monk had been an absolute shitshow. Nobody gave a damn about the mechanics or play experience, and it was becoming painfully obvious that the design paradigm for splatbooks was "throw a bunch of shit at the wall and see what happens." Exalted was broken, and nobody gave a fuck.
The Infernals of Chapter 5 changed all that. Suddenly there was a splat besides Solars that it was actually fun to play. They were interesting, they were weird, and their thematic abilities actually fucking worked unlike every other splat's. Suddenly, you could have Solar-level adversaries that weren't just Solars With A Skull Motif. Their god-awful origin story could be effortlessly rewritten so you could get at their sweet, delicious thematic-mechanical centers, and while Exalted's combat was still a fucking mess pre-errata, the success of Chapter 5's infernals lead to its writers taking on a more active role in the product line's future development (starting with The Broken-Winged Crane, which was pretty much entirely "These are the Infernal Charms we didn't have pagespace to get into MOEP: Infernals.") which eventually lead to said writers introducing White Wolf to the concept of "it's a probability based game, the math should probably be based on something more than just gut feelings" in the 2.5 errata.
Even the old school White Wolf types were energized by Infernals, mostly because it gave them something they knew how to write: a metaplot. The idea of the Yozis' Reclamation being something that had to happen within the next couple of years or never allowed for the creation of Return of the Scarlet Empress, originally planned to be the final book in the Exalted product line (but courtesy of the Chapter 5 writers, this ended up not being the case) and by and large a great demonstration of how much the industry had learned from the shitshow that was the end of oWoD. I'll probably end up doing it next.
If chapters one and two had not been Malfeas: Penn State Showers Edition MOEP: Infernals would have had a decent shot at being hailed as a landmark event in RPGdom. As it is, it's merely the finest expression of what it is to play Exalted known to man: there is something brilliant there, something absolutely fantastic, but it is shackled to a terminal case of Creepy on one side and an utterly broken system on the other.
Next time: Chapters 6 and 7 : The Rest Of The Book That's Not Terrible!