Any alteration to the basics of Primordialhood that makes the tale of Marus impossible is not one I’m going to embrace, because if that’s impossible then… I don’t care to include Primordials at all.
Part of the point of the Yozis was that no matter how huge and all-powerful and vastly beyond your reach they appear to be, they are still people you can interact with. The fact that they created sapient slaves whose only purpose was to die is not excused by the fact that they are beyond the ability to notice individual mortals. In fact, they very much do have that ability. They just choose not to use it, because they see themselves as better. They’re supposedly transcendent status was shown to be hollow and empty, their belief in their innate superiority unfounded.
If you start from the perspective that Primordials are not persons in any meaningful sense, you’ve already bought into their propaganda. I’d rather weaken them across the board then get rid of the ability to have a personal duel of wits with the Shadow of All Things.
At the same time, I am perfectly okay with there being things in the setting that are beyond the ability of a single Solar, no matter how personally experienced and trained, to defeat in one on one combat. Heck, there are things I don’t mind that would be more powerful than a Circle of maximum Essence Solar elders. If you want to go to war with Malfeas, you’d better bring the Exalted Host, because that is the minimum barrier for entry.
The reason I have no problem with this is because they can all be safely ignored. The Yozi are stuck in Malfeas and will never, ever escape. The Neverborn can not act outside the Well of the Void, Autochthon is decaying away Elsewhere and Gaia is off having the epic sulk to match all epic sulks.
So yeah, like if you want to play the equivalent of Orpheus trying to outwit Hades with your Solars versus Yozi/Neverborn, go for it. The fact the being you are dealing with could crush you is part of the fun of that encounter. The fact it is entirely optional is part of the fun of Exalted. You are the biggest cock on the walk, so to speak, unless you take on optional hard mode challenges.
(part 2, in response to confusion on what you can do with direct interaction with Primordials that you can’t with Third Circle demons)
In my games third circles, death lords, elder exalts and powerful celestial gods exist to be the kind of villains that most RPGs make the explicit end boss of the entire campaign and convert them into your peer rivals. You may not be as powerful one on one as a starting PC, but your circle can certainly match them and by the time you’re at the end of your progession you are almost certainly going to win. I also want them to have the ability to show up and be threats because I occasionally want peer-level opponents to show up, not always but often enough.
I also want a kind of opponent who can not be “defeated’ in the traditional sense. The kind you have to trick or outwit or work around. Because occasionally it’s fun to tell that kind of story. But having them running around free to act as they will isn’t what Exalted is about, because you are supposed to be the big damn heroes able to topple and conquer what you see. So we have Yozi trapped in hell and Neverborn at the bottom of the Well of Oblivion and the Incarna smoking the crack pipe of the gods and Autochthon sealed Elsewhere and Gaia wandering the far marches.
So that if I want to tell that kind of story, I can, but it is entirely optional. I can tell the story of my Circle conquering/saving Creation without once ever confronting the Primordials. Or I can hint that the Primordial have access to Thing The Player Wants and if they are clever and lucky enough, they may be able to survive a confrontation long enough to abscond with it.
And yes, I think that they are not a thing you can defeat directly. They can be thwarted or communed with or out-witted or escaped or bargained with, but all of these require that the Primordial itself be an agent. You can not thwart gravity. It doesn’t have an intention. It’s not an opponent. It’s just a force. I want a thing with intentions and agency, a being with goals and drives. I want to be able to make the Primordial lose, and a mindless force or landscape doesn’t lose.
And no, I don’t want to make Ligier lose. Because making him lose is just a matter of binding him or killing him. I want something that can be thwarted but not destroyed or bound or otherwise permanently dealt with. I want an antagonist who can be temporarily defeated, but not permanently dealt with.
(part 3, in response to asking for clarification)
I want you to be able to acheive victory against an opponent who is clearly more powerful than you, one too powerful to destroy. I want you to steal something from the Ebon Dragon such that he curses your name. I want you to be able to make enemies of Primordial forces who can then bend their forces to destroying you to avenge their insult (or teach you ‘enlightenment’, as the case may be). I want them to be beyond the ability of the PCs to stop, but also be safely locked away and neutered such that they are entirely optional.
Adorjan is never going to just randomly show up to fuck up your shit unless you go to her. Even if you gain her attention, she’s not going to be able to pursue you into Creation and raze your cities to the ground. She is going to haunt your dreams and send her daughters and lesser souls to fuck you up, but you can safely deal with those because you’re Exalted.
I want enemies you can thwart but never end.