Years ago, Infernal Exalted were the creatures of internet fan works that never quite drew me in to getting behind them. Speculation regarding akuma and the 50 Solar Exaltations given to the Yozis by the Neverborn was a world away, and when second edition came along and we eventually learned that the Infernals would be getting their own hardback, I was somewhat interested. As the spoilers hit, I became more intrigued by the Green Sun Princes, especially with the revelations that they would not be using Exalted Charms. Upon reading through it several times, I’ve accrued much sympathy for the verdigris devils.
Their name first hinted at two years ago when the Lunar Manual of Exalted Power was released, the Green Sun Princes are not, as some feared, “green Abyssals”. This is readily apparent even without the clever analogy offered by the storytelling chapter regarding Abyssals and Solars being two sides of a coin while Green Sun Princes are paper money. Their Charms are (as mentioned) not another type of Exalted’s Charms at all, and their appearance is demonic in the purest way, for they are essentially Solar Exaltations twisted about to turn would-be heroes that fall on their faces attempting something grand or who suffer an attack of nerves and back down from a challenge into Yozis.
The purpose of these new creations is rather easy to see. To facilitate the Ebon Dragon’s ambition to break out of the prison he and his fellows are caged in (and maybe help the other Yozis out along the way), he plans on doing to the world of the Exalted and the traitorous gods what they did to the Yozis: fielding a force of more or less secretly trained empowered humans that can act independently of the demons (who are beholden to the Incarna by the surrender oaths of the Primordial War), able to go back into Creation and do their work under the radar of Heaven. It is the ideal of this plan, noted as the Reclamation, that Creation be turned into another Hell, so that, at the very least, the Yozis, true creators of all things that are not obsessed with Oblivion, do not suffer alone.
Akuma are also discussed, as are the Demon-Blooded and other, less powerful pawns of hell. The akuma get a rather significant power boost, mortal or Exalted, because no longer do they use spirit Charms, but rather the powers at the disposable of their Yozi patron; Exalted akuma also gain access to Infernal Monster Style as if it were a native fighting art. Even lowly mortals that impress the Yozis may find their way into power and gain access to Charms on par with Solar Exalted, allowing them to kick around even prominent Dragon-Blooded if used effectively. A number of key demonic mutations appear at the end of the chapter describing demon-blooded and akuma, many of them having been converted from idiosyncratic merits that appeared in the old Player’s Guide. They fit much better as they are now, I believe.
The Charms described are a landmark feature, because they essentially describe the powers available to the most potent beings of hell… and they’re at the disposal of Infernal Exalted characters. This book features the neatest thematic conventions and tightest mechanics of any Charm set yet to date, as their set is full of permanent enhancements to previous Charms and techniques that can be repurchased, cramming in a huge selection of effects in as small a space as possible, with nary a speed bump in sight. Two also note Solar equivalents, and one, the Demon-Wracking Shout, can be learned by any Celestial Exalt. There’s even what’s been termed “stealth errata”, which prevents the abuse of Infinite Ability Mastery, the Second Excellency, and infinite Rate Charms; you’d also do well to know that Lunars are explicitly barred from learning Sidereal Martial Arts, even if you’re playing Dreams of the First Age. At least, unless something very unusual comes along to help you break that rule (such as becoming one of the akuma).
Some Yozis also have characteristic Keywords. Messianic Charms have an effect based on the Infernal’s Cult rating. Velocity defines the need of the Silent Wind to keep moving. Another (which is not affiliated with any given Yozi), Blasphemous, indicates that the Infernal does worse than just become a brighter strand on the Loom of Fate for spending the motes using it. Holy is clarified, and Charms that bear this keyword are off-limits to use by Creatures of Darkness (another form of the stealth errata). Desecration indicates that a Charm induces mutations, after inflicting one very important keystone… difference as a matter of course.
The chapter on Infernal relics puts to rest the speculation about the potential existence of five colors of magic lead, to name but one example of internet speculation. Items, normal or made of magical materials, can be tainted with refined vitriol so that Infernals may use them to their full potential without paying double for their commitment, and several other types of weapon, such as mist razors and shadow weapons, are introduced. Regarding black lead, that’s the construction of the caustic type. There are many interesting takes on gaining Essence, loricating a servant of hell, and, of course, hellstriders. Make sure to bone up on your knowledge of Abcissic binding before using demon-forged giant “robots”, especially if yours is made of more than five demons, or made from a Third Circle Soul.
The Storytelling chapter is committed to opening up the floor to having fun. Rather than tell you if anything can or cannot be done, the advice delivered unto the reader is regarding the consequences of assumptions that the storyteller’s decisions have if something is true or not. Three main types of using Infernals are also noted – straight, serious atrocity, as alien beings that have a different, and not necessarily sinister, plan for taking care of the world’s ills, and as rebellious creatures of hell using terrible powers to good ends. Variations on that go further into detail on various ends of the spectrum, such as the infamous “Grant Theft Yeddim” that has been bandied about on the forums, which is just about causing as much collateral damage to Creation as possible.
Many previous setting threads that were only partially illuminated on over the past few years get shown in a new, off-green light. The Green Sun Princes are the honor guard of the Ebon Dragon’s wedding, noted in the First Edition Dragon-Blooded book. Their Exaltations are stored by the… heavily altered youngest daughter of the Scarlet Empress, Lillun. In the same order that the Yozis were described in Games of Divinity, one can see the correspondences of Demon Prince patron to Solar Castes, going from Dawn to Eclipse. Finally, regarding devil beasts (animals with demonic heritage), there is a very old shout out dating back to the Invisible Fortress scenario in Time of Tumult.
The artwork helps to get the mood across, and all of the new toys in the relic section have a clear visual. I particularly liked a piece at the beginning of the storytelling section involving Swan, Cyan (the Fiend signature character), and a misunderstanding made by Arianna. Among the comics, there is also more continuity with the Ophilis Ses storyline, Cearr (the Slayer signature character) ripping a forest walker a new one, and an odd appearance by the unnamed plasma tongue repeater-wielding Solar.
As someone who had little interest in the distant figures of the Demon Princes beforehand, this book has sold me on getting itself and also the new, in-depth look on Malfeas (not yet released as of the reviewer’s writing this piece). While you will, in all likelihood, be put off from some of the less pleasant details if you didn’t like material from, for the sake of argument, Videodrome or Naked Lunch (or the opening scene of Terminator 2, for some of the Charms branching off of Green Sun Nimbus Flare), this book is, honestly, very good; you should be fine with the existence of objectionable details as you flip by the pages you don’t like. And even if you aren’t, that’s probably why there’s an option for the Infernals to rebel without needing to be redeemed first, as it generally goes with Abyssals (and the Storytelling chapter reminds the reader). There are some slight problems involving typos and mechanics in the akuma chapter (regarding cannibalizing traits for bonus points), and I’m scratching my head at the use of the word “physiognomy” in the description of the Chrysalis Grotesque’s effects on appearance, but those don’t change the fact that they managed to make akuma playable while still keeping them beholden to the choices they (or rather, their players) made in becoming the servant of a Yozi, among other feats and rules refinements.