Akuma

The rationale behind these revised rules for Akuma is essentially because I feel that the rules provided in Manual of Exalted Power: Infernals are not effective at producing an actual player-character. If, in your view, Akuma aren’t really intended as such and serve only as antagonists/NPCs then they probably serve the purpose, although I’d suggest that the below changes might allow for more nuanced characters.

My main issue with Akuma as presented is that they lack an absolutely key element that all other character types possess: a motivation. Every other type of character has their own motivation which defines the most important elements of themselves, and provides a key driving factor in any game or story, from Solar exalts all the way down to mere mortals. Instead, Akuma get an urge which takes the place of their motivation, representing them selling their souls to the Yozis and becoming their tools. I feel that this is an inelegant solution, and prevents an Akuma from really being their own character and from even appreciating the terrible consequences of the deal they made.

To me the Akuma are the Exalted setting’s version of the Faustian bargain; certainly elements of it exist within Green Sun Princes and Abyssals, but in the end those characters can either still achieve their own goals or be redeemed, and either way are still free to feel the dissonance of whatever their motivation might be vs the goals and demands of their dark masters. An Abyssal can have a motivation to defend his home town from all enemies, and yet can be ordered by his Deathlord master to destroy it; it’s going to create conflict for him, and he can feel the consequences of the dark bargain he accepted.

Akuma, on the other hand, are so wholly subsumed by the Investiture of Infernal Glory that they cease to have any driving goal other than what their master sets for them. They cannot have an internal struggle about whether to serve their master or save their family, and they wouldn’t even see it as an issue; their whole self would be bent to the task of fulfilling their Urge.

In addition, the book even goes as far as saying that player character Akuma should have urges that aren’t too punishing; this again seems to go against the idea that being an Akuma should have a cost to it.  If a PC Akuma should just have an urge that would be suitable or expected as a normal motivation, then it seems to be a distinction without a difference.

The below is an attempt to create a true Faustian bargain for Akuma, allowing an exalt to bargain with a Yozi for power in exchange for being bound to serve them, one way or another, while still coming out the other side as themselves and being able to regret the choice they made.

Upon accepting the Investiture of Infernal Glory, the rules and mechanics of which stay the same (perhaps less some of the overly graphic imagery, in my opinion), the Akuma undergoes the following changes:

  • They gain the benefit of Demonic Inheritance and Demonic Patron at the 5-dot level.  The benefits of Demonic Inheritance must be spent as XP and all Akuma start play in XP-debt; they cannot choose to spend this as bonus points.
  • They gain an Urge in addition to their motivation.  This Urge is selected by their Yozi patron as part of the investiture, and can take any format that the demon-prince wishes.  An Akuma’s urge functions as per a Green Sun Prince’s, except that, without an unwoven coadjutor, they must undergo the Investiture again to change or gain a new Urge.
  • They gain an Infernal Limit track and torment in addition to their “native” limit mechanic.  Their torment is as normal for an Exalt with an Urge dictated by their Yozi patron.
  • They continue to gain “native” limit in the same way as an Exalt of their type.
  • Additionally, Akuma gain a single point of “native” limit any time they gain any points of Infernal Limit.  The mental stress of defying the Yozi-forged commandment written into their psyche puts additional pressure on the Akuma.
  • They gain a point of Infernal Limit when they act in a manner contrary to their Urge (1 per scene) or when they act against a direct commandment from their Yozi patron (1 per commandment).
  • They gain an inviolable Intimacy to their Yozi patron.  Their patron determines the nature of this Intimacy (e.g. fear, love, hate, duty), and this Intimacy can also only be changed by another application of the Investiture.
  • They treat all social attacks from their Yozi patron as unnatural mental influence, if a transcendent being with almost unlimited cosmic power would ever make any non-unnatural social attacks to begin with.