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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Exalted/Godbound: The Vastness of the Yozis, Part 1

The Yozis are perhaps among the most interesting yet misused elements of the Exalted setting: impossibly vast and powerful beings who created and shaped the world only to be defeated and imprisoned by their upstart children. They are the Titans of the Exalted universe, the 'Old Gods' and makers of all that exist now bound within their own bodies (themselves bound inside the body of their general, Malfeas).

Unfortunately as the Editions went on, the Yozi became less and less this backstory detail and origin story to the countless unique and exotic demons of Exalted which could be allies, enemies and patron alike and were increasingly portrayed as a coherent entity, almost singular. People spoke of 'Malfeas' and 'The Ebon Dragon' as if they were actual NPC and not the sum of their parts, relegating the more interesting and nuanced Demons which composed them into mere minions rather than key elements forming the greater whole which is the Yozi. This culminated into Manual of the Exalted Powers: Infernals, which had the Infernals as the Chosen of Hell and ready (and arguably fated) to retake Creation in a massive endgame where the Yozis free themselves: The Reclamation.

The second worst thing to come out of Exalted 2nd edition,
beside the Infernals themselves of course.

These Yozis as depicted by the end of 2nd Edition are gone. Erased! They do not belong in my vision for the game, even if there's still a wealth of material to be mined from the Yozis fluff written during that era. It's less an issue of disliking the flavor (although much of the flavor is questionable at times) so much as the creeping vision and idea that the Yozis would be the endgame bosses of Exalted. An interesting idea, to be sure, but one which should have been left optional rather than having crept all over the fluff as default as the fanbase fell in love with those damn Infernals.

There will be no collective freedom for the Yozis in my game. No mean of escape. However that doesn't mean they can't play a role: Yozis can and do influence Creation when their demons are summoned into the mortal world but the influence spread is that of the demon itself, not necessarily the collective sum which is the Yozis. These demons may very well have personal goals and motivations which do NOT require initiating the Reclamation which does not and cannot exist and neither do Infernals or Akuma in my game.

The Vastness of the Yozis

Ancient and vast beyond measures as they may be, the common people of Creation generally do not know much of the Yozis as a whole, as their folklore is more commonly referring to the individual actions of specific (often lesser) demons. Only those who study demonology know and understand what the Yozis are: the broken and defeated, once-proud Primordials now bound inside Malfeas, each a collection of theme, concepts and ideas embodied by it's sub-Souls with each soul being a fully-formed (albeit incredibly alien) individual spirit who in turn spawned lesser sub-souls.

Both glorious and hideous. How fitting.

The relationship between these souls, or Demons as they are known today, is a complicated and strained one: while each being form a greater, collectively whole they nonetheless retain a level of individuality. They may embody certain shared themes but they may very well embody them in particularly bizarre and often clashing ways. Harmony and sanity are not exactly common themes in Malfeas, after all, since the Yozis these Demons compose are all to some extent broken and vengeful individuals filled with resentment and festering hate for their upstart creations. While many Demons may be more than willing to work with summoners there will always be an undercurrent of rage and self loathing which fester at the very core of the Malfean dimension as one need to remind themselves it exist purely within the confines of Malfeas himself and He is quite, quite angry at his imprisonment.

Souls and Avatars

The collective Yozis would not exist without the entire combined concepts they represent and embody and these manifests in their descending hierarchy of Demons. The first born of any Yozis are the Third Circle Demons, which are the closest to the purest concepts which form each Yozi: each a vastly powerful spirit. Some are great arch demons of equal might and cunning, demon lords who command legions and are impossibly gifted in certain things while others are mere war-juggernauts, Avatars of the Yozis. Such creatures would include the form of the Ebon Dragon which pass over the green sun of Malfeas, bringing night or the unbridled boar-shaped black hole of Isidoros. In turn these have sub-souls, the Second Circle Demons and finally the Third Circle demons are born: most being entire species of Demons rather than individuals for the most part.

You could see Yozis are some sort of recursive unholy Trinity.
Except it's not a triangle but you get the point.

Building the Demons

The range of size, shape, power and purpose displayed by the residents/components of the Malfean reality is simply mind-boggling. These are creatures (well, spirits, as they are not made of flesh but essence) who can display any form imaginable as well as forms which cannot be imagined by mortal or even immortal minds. Their level of power is as wide-ranging. One thing they share in common, however, is that they need commit effort for the scene to Materialize when summoned outside of Malfeas.

A Glimpse of Hell

Generally, Exalted 'canon' put the number of imprisoned Yozis somewhere around twenty-something. While I am fine with playing loose with canon and rewriting entire chunks of the setting this seems like a rather suitable number of gaming purposes, allowing to create random tables which works off a d20. Therefore, from here on, this project will assume a number of Yozis above twenty with a few who are too reclusive or unknown to bother showing up in table and/or remain a mystery to this very day.


Malfeas, the Demon City

Once, he was Theion, the Empyreal Chaos: mightiest of the Primordials and crowned ruler of all which was and could ever be. His dominion encompassed all which existed since he was the ruler of the Primordials and reality consisted simply of Heaven and Creation and both he ruled. Defeated, broken and mutilated he was turned into a prison for his brethren. Now he is Malfeas, the demon city of brass. He is still mighty and imperious, proud and terrible to behold yet also inherently marred and denied perfection. The impossibly beautiful yet alien constructions which sprout from his flesh all suffer from some minor incorrigible imperfection and whenever His resentment and anger grows He lash out, entire district crashing into one another. His beating heart is a glowing green sun. Exotic, baroque, proud and forever broken and twisted: this is Malfeas.

Associations of Malfeas

The demon city is one built of bronze, bones, flesh, verdigris and black stones. It's crammed and alien architecture suggest pride and power, baroque decadence of the city built in the honor of the greatest sovereign which could have ever lived. The imperfections, the incoherence of the street planning and the jagged and spiky edges which grow as the districts clash into one another suggest deep resentment, anger and self-loathing.
  • Elements: Mortal and Exalted scholars sometimes associate Malfeas with the Earth element, as he is the base upon which the demon Realm grow yet this is pure fabrication. His true element is the glowing green Vitriol.
  • Materials: Bronze, brass, iron, black stone and verdigris. To a lesser extent, the green light of his sun-heart.
  • Architecture: Impossibly large, baroque and imposing. Armories and other military aperture.
  • Animals: Anything which looks powerful and proud, such as eagle, lions, apes or elephants.
  • Positive Emotions: Pride, power, self-assurance and zeal.
  • Negative Emotions: Anger, self-loathing, arrogance.
  • Associated Arts: Dancing and music.
  • Desires and Motivations: To conquer and to grow, to expand and rule only to invariably see it fall and collapse from one's own failings.

"SKREE-HOINK!"
Hogzilla by Kaijuverse.

Isidoros, the Black Boar That Twist The Sky

Unbridled power, a zeal for life and an utter lack of shame or self-explanation define Isidoros. Even chained inside the body of his general and brother Malfeas, he remain unbridled in his zeal and desire to both experience and to be life. The demons spawned from Isidoros exemplify the 'larger than life' expression and not just in size (even if many are enormous). To be somewhat crude, one could say Isidoros' very presence is a 'fuck you'. He is the loud, often obnoxious guest and the big fat party animal (who is also shaped like a big fat animal, go figure) of the family. Of all the Yozi he is perhaps one of the least prone to melancholic depression or antediluvian fury. Diminished as he may be in his current state he is still very much a force of nature and nothing has curbed all his desires and self-expression of pure, loud, self-affirming presence.

Associations of Isidoros

Unlike many of his brethren, Isidoros is not particularly associated with locations or environment: rather, the environments of Isidoros reflect not his body itself but rather the aftereffects of the presenc of the Black Boar That Twist The Sky.
  • Elements: Arguably the 'open air' could be seen as being loosely related to Isidoros as his unbridled presence is antithetical to enclosed and confined spaces. Sometimes he is associated with inky black, all-consuming darkness and/or gravity.
  • Materials: Bronze, lead and molten metal. Flesh and blood.
  • Architecture: Displaced objects, broken columns, holes in roads and toppled buildings. 
  • Animals: Boars, obviously, but any animal known for being particularly large and ferocious can be associated to Isidoros.
  • Locations: Mountains, icebergs and wild places covered in gore.
  • Positive Emotions: Self-reliance, self-appreciation, defiance and a 'I-Don't-Give-A-Shit' attitude.
  • Negative Emotions: Uncaring hedonism, rage and a strong dislike of the mundane/boring.
  • Associated 'Arts': Loud drumming, power metal, improvised dancing, frat parties.
  • Desire and Motivations: To explore the world, to live, to enjoy oneself, to express one's presence to the world no matter what.