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Please, please fix the Lunar Bond

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  • Please, please fix the Lunar Bond

    This conversation has come up a couple times now on the Exalted discord server, where things are fleeting and ephemeral, and quickly drift between topics. I care about this quite a lot and would like to make it more prominently visible, so here is my plea to the devs to change how the Bond works for 3rd edition.

    The fundamental problem here, that I would like to see fixed, is that the Bond is presented as mechanically one-sided. Lunars are forced to develop a tie towards their Solar mate, who is not in turn forced into any feelings towards the Lunar. First and foremost, yes, this is disturbingly reminiscent of the 2e Bond. You know, the universally despised one that managed to poison the entire splat by the end of 2e's run. Now this is of course not exactly the same. There's no Lunar-Taming Leash that lets you force the Bond tie up to defining, there's (one must hope) no prominent depictions of Solars using that connection to abuse and manipulate a Lunar mate who they care nothing for. And maybe in a world where 2e never existed, it would be okay. It might have been seen as a weird quirk that Lunars are the only ones affected by the Bond, with any weird ideas that this creates awful power imbalances being the domain of wacky forum conspiracy theories. But we don't live in that world. Third edition has gone out of its way to cut out the most poisonous memes of 2e - progenitive essence means no Dragon-Blooded breeding camps! Lots of emphasis on the power and agency of the entire Exalted Host back during the First Age, so it's very distinctly not just the Solars and their unimportant minions! The fact that it would then not only fail to do something, similar to progentive essence, that actively eliminates the concept of one-sided abusive Bonds, but explicitly keep them, is awful. It's a concept that should be ripped out and burned, not kept more or less intact and enshrined in the rules, with the barest hint of a tacit assumption that it probably won't be done in creepy ways this time around.

    Beyond just the flashbacks of the 2e Bond, it's also really, really bad at doing all the things the Bond tries to do. The primary purpose of the Bond is to provide the reincarnation romance trope, and its platonic equivalents - two people who keep finding each other and feeling the same things towards each other across every lifetime. That goes both ways. The whole point of it is to go both ways. When the Lunar sees the Solar and feels a sudden tug of affection as their epic love is before them, reincarnated in the flesh, that Solar is supposed to feel something similar in return. If the Lunar feels sudden love for their ancient spouse, and the Solar feels absolutely nothing for this random stranger, that's not a charming tale of love stretching out across lifetimes. That's a fucked-up tale of a magically compelled stalker, who fundamentally cannot be content with leaving this other person the hell alone. Yeah, it's less creepy when you present it with non-romantic relationships, but A) it's still not good, your ancient camaraderie between two best buds still falls flat on its face if one half of that BFF pairing doesn't give a crap about the other and B) this is a romance trope. It's a romance trope in basically every reincarnated-people-meet pop culture depiction ever. The literary inspirations section cites romance tropes for how it works. The setting chapter talks about it starting from a bunch of marriages. This is a romance trope. If it's creepy when used for the primary thing it's supposed to do, it's been terribly implemented.

    And it's not just bad for Lunars. This fucking sucks if you want your Solar to engage in Bond-related activities of any kind. The epic moment when you first encounter your Lunar mate? Nothing. Nothing happens, you feel nothing, there's just one more faceless NPC you don't care about at all. Maybe, if that NPC is really persistent in stalking you, you might even form some kind of feelings for them! Completely normal, non-magical feelings, of course. Of course you'll never love your Lunar mate in the way they love you, you physically cannot have that same connection, the only way you can even tell they are your Lunar mate is them assuring you that it's totally true, look at how much cooler my charms are when I use them to help you out. It's flat, empty, pointless.

    You can describe it otherwise, of course. You can say that your Solar immediately feels something for this other person, if you want. But the rules disagree with you, and the rules mean something here. Normally I'm all for pointing out that rules =/= physics, Creation does not run on the Ex3 game engine, etc etc, but while the rules may not be literal translations of the laws of physics in Creation, they do very much reflect how the world works. Solars may not have a specific, universal technique that costs exactly two units of essence and allows them to jump a specific distance across all Solars and all situations, but it is true that Solars who are good at jumping can wield their Essence to leap to the roof of a small building in a single, easy bound. Exalted is not a generic system of rules that can be applied to any fantasy setting, it's a very deeply tied-in set of rules that depict and are shaped by a particular world. And when those rules tell you that Lunars all care for their Solar mates, and those Solars get absolutely nothing in turn towards their mate, that says a lot. That makes a statement about the setting, whether you want it to or not. It may not say that there are exactly three amounts that a person in Creation can care about another person, and that Lunars always feel at least one Caring Unit towards their Solar mate, but it does say that Lunars feel some kind of special, magical connection towards their Solar mate, and this connection is not reciprocal. Or at the very least, it says that whatever Solars do feel towards their Lunar mate, it's so small that it doesn't count as an intimacy, while the Lunar's does and always must.

    There are mitigating factors, yes. It doesn't have to be a tie of love, so it's not always creepy one-sided stalking or uncaring Solars abusing their devoted Lunar mates. You're allowed to say that your Lunar doesn't have a mate at all. You can convince your Solar mate to feel the same way for you via social influence, and once you do give them a tie it can be just as strong or stronger as your magically enforced one. The Solar's player is allowed to voluntarily form intimacies towards you. You can ask your ST to house rule it into a mutual thing, and there's a reasonable chance they'll agree. There are plenty of reasons why the one-sided Bond is less toxic and creepy than it could have been. Is that really what we're aiming for? Is 3rd edition going to be content with that as its tagline? Lunars - Fangs at the Gate: Less Toxic And Creepy Than It Could Have Been. I, at least, would like to see something better than that, something that's actively good instead. You don't need any mitigating factors at all if you don't start from a basic premise that's both kinda gross and a failure at doing the one thing it's meant to accomplish.

    So, what are the solutions to this problem? The basic premises that aren't toxic and creepy? These two:

    1 - Make the Bond mutual. Solars feel a tie towards their Lunar mate, which works the same way as the Lunar's tie. Unfortunately, as has been discussed in great length during the aforementioned discord debates, this isn't an option. People feel, rightly or wrongly, that this would be bad because it would be putting important Solar rules in the Lunar book. This isn't happening, there's no point talking about it, moving on.

    2 - Remove the mechanical impact of the Bond altogether. There is no tie. Lunars are not forced to feel anything for their Solar mate. All the fluff can remain, talking about how Solar and Lunar mates feel a strange sense of recognition when they see each other, and often leading into grand romances stretched out across lifetimes. That concept's already in the corebook, we're not adding any new, exclusive Solar content to the Lunar book here. The charm riders can remain - the corebook also, conveniently enough, has a Lunar mate charm rider, so there's clear precedent for having charm effects without a mechanical effect of the Bond itself, and the concept of the Solar mate is already very well established so it's not going to look weird to have the riders without any other mechanical enforcement of the Bond. But the magically compelled tie, the thing that sets up the Bond as being inequal right from the word go because Solars can't have it too, that has to go. Abandoning the inherently unequal mechanical implementation allows the Bond to become properly reciprocal, as it always should have been - needed to be, even. It becomes something that your group can use to whatever extent they like, in whatever way they like, developing intimacies as is appropriate to the story they tell rather than being told in black and white right there on the page that the Lunar feels something and the Solar feels nothing. It still even makes the Bond feel mechanically impactful, since even without a forced intimacy, the wide range of Solar mate riders scattered across Lunar charms makes it a Big Deal by the rules when you hang out with your mate.

    Option 2 isn't the best case scenario. Option 1 would be preferable, a mutual Bond with actual rules showing what that's meant to mean. But we're at the point where it's been decided that's not an option at all, so it's either removing the tie or living for the rest of 3rd edition with an imbalanced Bond that evokes all the gross memes from the darker side of 2e while simultaneously failing to tell the very stories it's designed to enable. I really hope we can get the acceptable compromise of option 2, rather than being stuck with all that for another entire edition.
    Last edited by Lanaya; 02-19-2019, 06:50 PM.


    My homebrew: Abyssals, Infernals, Dragon Kings, martial arts.

  • #2
    Adaptation to draw power from their metaphysical circumstance is part of Lunar core themes, hence reshaping the Castes. They were altered by the Bond to draw power from it (see Charmset). Solars were not because they’re not about change and adaptation.

    The comparison to 2E is ridiculous. If you don’t want the tie, don’t take the Bond. It’s that simple. Absolutely nothing is forced on the character against the player’s will.

    Making the Bond mutually binding would have had to be done in the Core book. It is too late now.

    Making the Bond not binding at all, thus rendering anyone who doesn’t take it an idiot since it’s just free power with no trade off, kills its story weight.
    Last edited by glamourweaver; 02-19-2019, 08:33 PM.


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    • #3
      I agree the bond should be mutual and more then that I don't think I've ever had a ST not have the feeling of having a mate be mutual outside of cases where the Lunar was specifically trolling the Solar by hiding it.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Flare View Post
        I agree the bond should be mutual and more then that I don't think I've ever had a ST not have the feeling of having a mate be mutual outside of cases where the Lunar was specifically trolling the Solar by hiding it.
        Yeah, I’s trnd to have it spark mutually too as long as the player’s consent. But I get why it’s too late to add that rule now, since “you can take this automatic intimacy” needed to be in Solar character creation rules.


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        • #5
          Originally posted by Lanaya View Post
          When the Lunar sees the Solar and feels a sudden tug of affection as their epic love is before them, reincarnated in the flesh, that Solar is supposed to feel something similar in return. If the Lunar feels sudden love for their ancient spouse, and the Solar feels absolutely nothing for this random stranger, that's not a charming tale of love stretching out across lifetimes. That's a fucked-up tale of a magically compelled stalker, who fundamentally cannot be content with leaving this other person the hell alone
          The only thing the Bond enforces is a Minor Intimacy. Now, I'm not going to blame you for forgetting this -- everyone forgets this -- but the intensity of an Intimacy is not a matter of depth of feeling, but of frequency.

          This is what the corebook has to say: Minor Intimacies are notable parts of your character’s worldview, but only come into play when the subject of the Intimacy is directly relevant to her current situation.

          In essence, if a Lunar's mate isn't present, they won't be more than a fond memory. Anything more is the result of outside influence or player choice, same as any other Intimacy.
          Last edited by The MG; 02-19-2019, 09:02 PM.

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          • #6
            I think I get where Lanaya is coming from.

            Depending how the manuscripts and final book play out, I'm tentatively planning to make the bond mutual, or to take on a life of its own, mechanically speaking.

            In the first case, both players would spend points equally for the bond or not at all. Or, optionally, to split the points cost - I let my players split bonus point costs for big purchases anyway. They'd have the pen to come up with how it's presented, the same way as players do for character generation.

            In the second, I'd treat it as a purely story element. If the players are into it, then it plays through all the benefits and drawbacks for both. Since it's introduced by the ST, it would be without points cost but I'd have a little more directorial control of how the bond is initially presented, and twists that come down the road as we play through.



            In both of these cases, I believe the base assumption of this topic is that a Lunar and Solar character are both being played by players. It seems to me that the bond rules as presented assume that we're having a Lunars game and the Solar in question is an NPC.



            I'm generally in favor of ST's taking control of how dramatic elements shape up, but I would like to hear people's thoughts on the matter!


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            • #7
              It doesnt even say that the intimacy has to be positive. Be that you find your Solar Bond annoying and cant wait to get away from them. Or an irrational hate. It's only as problematic as you go out of your way to make it.

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              • #8
                Just because 2e did something horrible down a certain road doesn't mean that 3e should abandon that direction entirely - 2e had the House of Succulent Tears, and I still want there to be an Underworld; 2e had Lillun and I still want there to be Infernals.

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                • #9
                  I'm not concerned with it at all. The Lunar's get quite a few special effects via charms when dealing with their Solar mate. Also, it's a minor intimacy only. As a minor intimacy, it only matters when the Solar is directly involved with the situation. So if it's coming up in play, it's because the ST is purposely pushing the issue. Which, even without the bond's mechanics, a ST can apply any mechanical effects they need to drive a story. Furthermore their is no specified limits set on the intimacy. It could be a Tie of love, or hate, or friendship, or even annoyance! Pick any emotion you want. Lastly, not all Lunar's are required to have a Solar bond. If you are so afraid your ST will use it against you, and he's a big enough @$$ to do it when he knows you don't want it, simply declare at character creation that you're one of the Lunar's without a bond.

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                  • #10
                    I'd almost rather drop the bond personally. Like, both setting and mechanical? It adds story possibilities but it also adds expectations: that if your a Lunar your Solar mate should be a thing, should matter: Ex3 adds ways to avert this but it remains the default. GMs tend to like playing that card and while the orichalcum rule is an option in theory, there's always players like me who don't like invoking it unless we have to.

                    So so long as we're blueskying... ditching the bond altogether would be my vote. Let Lunars be their own thing first and formost.

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                    • #11
                      Rereading the rules to be honest I find your worries a bit overblown. One, it is completely optional and two the tie is a minor one of your choice as TalosX & The MG have detailed. I do wish that the Solars had more interactions in their charms like Lunars do but no point in worrying about that now several years later.

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                      • #12
                        I just want the Bond to be mutual. I've always liked the concept, but it's always felt weird to me that it was one sided. It's not even about the ties to previous editions, it's just more interesting of a concept to me if it goes both ways.

                        I'll probably houserule it if it isn't changed, which should be easy enough.


                        Raksi plays Peek-a-boo for keeps. ~ nalak42

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                        • #13
                          Just throwing this out there, guessing that folks finding this thread might find it interesting.

                          Why would a reincarnating bond be limited to a Lunar and a Solar(oid) partnership? Could two Solars have once wed? Two Lunars?

                          Could a DB be caught in a loop of destiny, reincarnating to seek out the Sidereal who once saved their soul from the Void?


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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Simon Darkstep View Post
                            Just throwing this out there, guessing that folks finding this thread might find it interesting.

                            Why would a reincarnating bond be limited to a Lunar and a Solar(oid) partnership? Could two Solars have once wed? Two Lunars?

                            Could a DB be caught in a loop of destiny, reincarnating to seek out the Sidereal who once saved their soul from the Void?
                            I mean, since reincarnation and fate are actual pillars of the setting then there is nothing preventing this kind of mythical trope.

                            But I hold that you shouldn’t dilute the impact of Solar Bond by making it equal with these errant eccentricities of fate.

                            Solar Bond is a deliberate mystical working that bound the fate of two of the most powerful groups in Creation together basically for all time. I kind of like it to have powerful resonances in the setting and mechanics.

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                            • #15
                              Solid answer!


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