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DrLovemonkey's Holistic Lunar Review

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  • #16
    Based on your excellent thread on the topic prototype, and the Dr.'s analysis, it seems like shapeshifting is a very, very efficient way to get way better (though not necessarily earth-shatteringly good) at some or the other set of combat stats. Also, that the number of animals the system has statted out and the way the stats interact make Lunar shapeshifting crazy versatile in combat, even if they'll never shoot as straight/sneak as sneakily/combo for 60 damage or whatever as well or as easily as a given Solar whose focus that thing is.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Zeesun View Post
      Based on your excellent thread on the topic prototype, and the Dr.'s analysis, it seems like shapeshifting is a very, very efficient way to get way better (though not necessarily earth-shatteringly good) at some or the other set of combat stats. Also, that the number of animals the system has statted out and the way the stats interact make Lunar shapeshifting crazy versatile in combat, even if they'll never shoot as straight/sneak as sneakily/combo for 60 damage or whatever as well or as easily as a given Solar whose focus that thing is.
      With the caveat that the Pestletail’s Soak and Soak Adjacent Merits/Latents and a Hippo’s base bite damage and Attack Merits are pretty close to “Earth Shatteringly Good”.

      IMO.

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      • #18
        I'm personally pretty unconcerned with the absolute limit of what can be accomplished by Lunars using shapeshifting, unless it starts to become a serious problem in the game, I'm more concerned with people who have a really cool concept for this Austreech totem scholar and are wondering if they have to build any special way to make it even remotely viable. The answer being basically if you have any decent dex, the dex excellency and a very small handful of brawl dice, then you're almost always going to be decent while in your battle form.


        I actually expect more possibility for broken combos with animal abilities than people are worried will happen with MA just because MAs are designed with the idea that other MAs might come combine their stuff, and animal abilities probably weren't. Also because there's a developer reminder that some combinations of stuff might be overpowered right under shapeshifting. I'm 100% all for letting my players be powerful and totally awesome, but if we're playing a game of mortal gladiators and one guy shows up with an Essence 5 Solar, then absolutely everyone has to be fully on board with that concept or it doesn't happen.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Zelbinnean View Post

          That's interesting to me. My reading of the DB and Lunar manuscripts had the opposite effect. To me they have very strong ideas about giving good numbers/variety of Charms, but not an excessive number; they stand in stark contrast to how badly the Solar Charmset is bloated and needs a solid pruning/revision at this point.

          Also the very obvious DB and Lunar themes just make it clear how the Solar Charmset has no real solid theme aside from "do things best." Which I get that's a major Solar Thing but as implemented it just feels...generic, and to me that's uninspiring. Like, a lot of it boils down to "throw the best possible math at problems for maximum efficiency and maximum result" and to me that really brings me out of an in-setting mindset if I look at it too closely. It's like...optimized, but ultimately rather flavorless.

          I don't know, more than solars not having real solid themes, I see them as having relative themes, and themes dependent of the other exalts. It seems that the more exalt books appear to compare solars to them, the more the solars meaning and themes seems evident.
          I don't like the interpretation of solar charms being about "doing things best". More than just the fact that if it was just that lots of charms and charm trees would be thematically unexplainable, "doing things best" seems like the most uncharitable interpretation possible to such an extent that it looks sometimes to me like emptying what doing best may means for the solars. "Doing best" not meaning that much in itself, it seems to me that the game through rules and setting frames the meaning of "doing better" in such a way that it makes the solar extremely distinct when compared to the lunars and the DBs. Just like what DrLovemonkey said with Nine Aeons Thew.

          I'm repeating myself here, but I don't see how solar charms produce bigger quantities of successes as a problem either. Those numbers are part of a system supposed to partly simulate narrative events and those numbers, even absurdly huge ones, while needing context are nothing meaningless. I may see purpose in lots of them and lots of them are narratively interesting to me while clearly expressing some"solar themes".
          I may be wrong but I have this feeling that the way we perceive and judge average values and probabilities sometimes changes the way we may interpret some charms. A good example is when DrLovemonkey talked about what AutXautY did with lunar craft probabilities. And when we look at this "doing better things through better values" what appears in fact when we look at probabilities is that solar doing N/A artifacts being probable does not make them doing just better. It's solars making a "technical" miracle (at great cost) in front of everyone's eyes, lunars and DBs's eyes not being an exception. (I'm simplifying here, most of the time everyone think in terms of achievability when crafting in Exalted, it's just that this case is clearly evocative of "qualitative" differences between solars and the others exalts recurring in lots of charm trees.)

          And about a solar rework, I don't know... Solar charms looks more like lacking thematical clarity than lacking thematical and narrative strength at all. (Thematically and narratively speaking, they're at least the strongest to me for example.) I don't think that giving up on those solars "mathematical" features would clearly make solars better.
          And I'm sorry, DrLovemonkey's topic does not deserve to be poisoned by this "solar thing". It's just that I so strongly disagree with that idea of solars not being enough because of objective flaws rather than solars just not being everyone's thing and Ex3 corebook sometimes lacking clarity about solars that I coudn't stop myself overreacting here. >.<
          Finally I don't know how solars were in precedent editions but seeing DBs and lunars, I sincerely think that both are completely awesome. But at the same time, it makes me love the solars more than I already did before and I can clearly say now that the solars are the exalts I prefer the most by far. >.<
          Last edited by RosePlancton; 03-19-2019, 12:30 PM.

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          • #20
            Well, I don't think Zel was talking about a full rework like making Solars into something they aren't supposed to be, but more just cleaning up their charmset so that it's more clear and focused. The kind of intentional generic and straightforward flavour of Solars and their basic power to supercharge the base systems of the game was more of a preference thing for powers that are more magical and less direct.

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            • #21
              Shapeshifting Part 2

              Okay so in the last post we looked at how shapeshifting can make a meek scholarly character into a pretty deadly combatant, and also how even a badass Full Moon can make use of it as a good tool in combat. It gives them a variety of options, wanna be a grappler? Become a bear. Wanna attack from short range with your brawl? Death Moa. It's just a big huge toolbox for anyone to use. If a water aspect is fighting in the ocean normally you'd take either flurry penalties for swimming at the surface while fighting, or just straight penalties for fighting while submerged...but not if you just become a shark, or a benthic knifetooth.

              Not just for fighting though, it's likewise a boon for exploration and infiltration. Any animal with the Tiny Creature merit subtracts 2 successes from an observer's Awareness, which doesn't actually count against your dicecap, so if you're even just a little good at stealth then as one of those creatures you're going to be nearly undetectable to anyone who isn't using magic themselves. Also it lets you simply slip that small frame into tiny areas that no human body could get into. None of that, remember, has anything to do with just being a cat in a place where cats are allowed. Nobody even gets to consider "Hmm, that's a strange way for a cat to act." because your stealth check means they can't even see you.

              You can fish swim up an irrigation ditch, or fly over the wall of a city under lockdown, or wander into any building at night as a mouse in the city. There is basically no where in the world that you can't move through easily, from the deepest ocean to the greatwood treetops of the far East.

              Impersonation

              Okay now lets talk about how it lets you act as an imposter, because we haven't actually done that yet. Shapeshifting into a creature and trying to pass yourself off as a benign one of those is a bit more dangerous, because you're vulnerable to a Read Intentions roll, or a Profile Character roll. So if you don't have a very good guile, like lets say it's totally trash at 2 or something, then it's possible that some observant person will pick up on the fact that you're not acting right. Maybe you're a robin that seems eerily intent on listening into the conversation of these soldiers, and you stop tweeting to stare intently as they recount their last raid.

              If that happens though, probably their first thought isn't going to be Lunars. They're probably just going to take notice of it and remember it later if it keeps happening that strange animals are always hanging around. Even if it gets to the point where they're convinced something is wrong, there's a whole host of things it could be. Animal spirits, demons, sorcery, fairies, almost anything. What that might provoke though is a Dragonblooded investigation, and now you're in a bit of trouble. They've got superhuman senses and abilities, and charms that help them unearth disguised characters.

              So, basically don't get so cocky that you think flying around the Imperial Palace and snooping in on secret Dynast meetings is going to be trivial. On the other hand if you have a really really good guile then you actually can pretty much can just wander around any area that your animal form isn't totally out of place. If you've got a guild of like 6? Then the only way you're getting noticed is if a dedicated dragonblooded investigator is after you. Or Solar Sherlock Holmes.

              Human Shapes

              Speaking of, human shapes are also open to being taken, and they follow the same rules. Which is pretty good actually, since if you've got a solid guile you can wander around pretty well doing as you please. Human shapes have a different set of skills that you should be looking at, and that's social power. Where a different exalt would have to spend a huge amount of time cultivating social power in a region, a Lunar could just take the shape of somebody who already has that power and leverage it. If you need to screw with the merchant fleet, just take the form of one of their high ranking officials, then spend a few weeks making disastrous decisions and disappear.

              Taking a high profile human shape is generally going to have a lifetime to it, eventually people are going to start noticing the strange disappearances and frequent vacations. Unless you really commit to the role and just live their life for years. On the other hand the damage you can cause with it is enormous, you could order a huge section of the local Realm garrison to march right into a trap, or even back home. Until they realize they've been duped of course.

              There's also advantages in shapes that don't seem to have much social power. In fact that can be a great boon on its own. Not just in the ways that are immediately obvious, like wandering a city or town without anyone recognizing your face. You can wield social power in a lot of ways even without being respected yourself. For example, maybe there's an Abyssal who's in charge of a small nation, populated by gaunt looking peoples. If you're looking to start a fight, take the shape of one of them and go attack the nearby Realm satrapy and all of a sudden your two biggest regional foes are slugging it out while you giggle by the sidelines. People are racist, it sucks, but you can use it to your advantage.

              It can work the other way too, uniting two tribes because a heroic member of one tribe stepped in to save members of the other when they were in danger. Of course that member who stepped in was you in disguise, but it's enough to start forming intimacies.


              Conclusion and Comparison

              I think that's about all I have to say about charmless shapeshifting. I might have made a mistake here or there, but I think absolutely everything that I've just said you can do with shapeshifting is done with "basic" shapeshifting. That's no charms, no merits, nothing like that. I'll talk about how charms later on can augment it as we get to them, but all of that in the last 2 posts is 100% free. If you want you can take 4 points of merits and have, essentially, unlimited animal forms from across the globe. Another point nets you either a bunch of low-importance human forms, or, for 5 points, a single form up to the level of a princess or a Dynast. Or just start the game with none of them and acquire them as you go.

              If we're comparing to Solars/DBs lets look first at the ability to move and fight unhindered under water. Solars get it only at Essence 3 in survival, and DBs never get it outside of being a water aspect. Flight? Both get it at Essence 3 Athletics, and the DB one requires you to set up Air Aura and only lasts for the duration, whereas the Solar one drains motes every round it's used.

              Disguising yourself as another person? Flawlessly impenetrable disguise at Essence 1, but it drops as soon as the Solar sleeps and needs an essence 3 combo charm to become instant. Dragonblooded don't get perfect disguises at all, and must rely on dice enhanced mundane ones.

              As for getting permanently upgraded dicepools and a host of new combat actions with animal forms, there simply is no comparison. No charm or ability allows Solars or DBs even close to that. Lunar Shapeshifting is incredible.



              Next post I make might take a break from mechanics to look at how Lunar Dominions and characters compare to Dynastic houses and DB characters, since the Solars don't really have anything like that. After reviewing all the charm sections I might compile a little versus battle thing to see how I think they stack up against Solars and DBs.

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              • #22
                It’s probably worth noting that pulling a Havesh is almost certainly the sort of thing that sends up big flags saying “Lunar Anathema” in any area where the Immaculate Order has sway. By which I mean “killing and replacing a person for a while, before suddenly vanishing.” And, yes, while the investigator thought the pattern of “people acting a bit off for several days/weeks before vanishing entirely” meant Fair Folk, that was 1e.

                I’m confident that in 3e the investigator would likely assume an inexperienced Moon Mad was responsible.

                So, if you steal a face and then need to stop the impersonation, that should be fine. One inexplicable disappearance is probably ok. It’s when you do this repeatedly in the same area that trouble starts to happen. Alternatives include:

                1) Skip town right after you do this your second time, so that, even if someone does get suspicious, you won’t be there.
                2) Don’t have your target just vanish. Start acting morose and then jump off a bridge into the river. Leave on a long business trip, voyage, or pilgrimage. Run away with your mistress. Whatever, as long as there’s an easy explanation for what happened to you.
                3) Be prepared for the Wyld Hunt. This tactic is probably better served for elder Lunars, but acting like a newly exalted fool and stealing the shapes of powerful people and living the high life until the money is gone and then getting a new face and doing it again for weeks or months on end, will probably draw a fairly cocky Wyld Hunt to your location, where you can be several kinds of prepared for them.


                ....

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                • #23
                  Oh yeah, level 2 deception. Or even if you’re not prepared for them to murder them if you just draw one out and then peace while they waste weeks or months searching for you that’s a win. You don’t even need any help for that then, and you can bugger off and keep doing it somewhere else.

                  All things considered that might be one of the best lives to live in the world of Exalted. You’re fighting tyranny, while living the lavish lifestyle that comes from being one of the oppressive aristocrats, and without any worries about peasant uprisings or Dynastic politics or impressing mother. In fact if you disappoint your shape’s mother while causing a peasant uprising and draining all the local family coffers by spoiling yourself rotten that’s like a quadrupole win right there!

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                  • #24
                    So this leads to the most important question to me, though it may be too early to have a definitive answer. How different do Lunars and Solars set up to do similar things (i.e. combat/stealth/infiltration/social) feel? This was a real mixed bag for the Dragon-Blooded, combat and things like Lore feel quite different, but social conflict feels unchanged (if weaker). A lot of DB charms are only semantically elemental (i.e. warm-faced seduction could just as easily be called Rose-cheeked seduction, and there would be no difference in how it felt to use).

                    I tend to think that this afflicts rather a lot of the DB charms, as just being weak solar charms with semantic relationships to the elements. I'm worried about lunars for the same reason, as a lot of the charms themselves feel like they could be grafted onto any tree, with some notable exceptions like the Mirror stuff.

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                    • #25
                      Often times actually you might find that DB charms which aren’t elemental directly play into a kind of elemental in spirit theme. For example wood represents vitality, flexibility and toughness, so it has a lot of charms that manipulate health levels, even though health levels don’t really have anything to do with wood exactly. Warm-faced seduction style is what it is because fire is super deep into passions, lust and anger. That’s why Passion Transmuting Nuance is the way t is too.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by DrLoveMonkey View Post
                        Often times actually you might find that DB charms which aren’t elemental directly play into a kind of elemental in spirit theme. For example, wood represents vitality, flexibility, and toughness, so it has a lot of charms that manipulate health levels, even though health levels don’t really have anything to do with wood exactly. Warm-faced seduction style is what it is because fire is super deep into passions: lust and anger. That’s why Passion Transmuting Nuance is the way t is too.

                        I get that to a certain extent - it stands out better with other trees, I'll admit. However, there are still a number of issues.

                        1) They don't feel meaningfully different from Solar charms intended to do the same thing, other than that they are numerically inferior. Consider the difference between the Water Archery Signature and the Earth Integrity Signature. One opens up a new type of play with stealth water archery that most would have trouble contesting without giving a serious environmental advantage to the DB. The other is basically just a low essence Solar Social Defense. There is a lot of variability between trees as well for how much they 'feel' like elemental magic. This isn't even going into the charms where the elemental aspect is litterally just tacked on - looking at you Drawing Lightning Style.
                        2) There aren't enough different elements present in one tree (usually) to really feel the difference between how different elements affect the same ability - we often see potential in the signatures but most charm-trees are mono-elemental with a few off-element tricks (which are hidden behind the mono-elemental prereqs). For instance, if Fire-seduction was all about passion it could do things like let the Fire-aspect take intimacies toward the target to inspire a reciprocal intimacy, whereas wood (with a flower motif) focuses more on being passively admired. There is a little hint of this with Vivacious Dragon Beauty, but its the only wood charm other than the signature and is behind 3 Fire charms.
                        3) Often the theme is just semantic. The oratory tree is mostly air, even though the performance tree is mostly Wood - and is meant to be thematically related to 'a gathering storm'. But a) Air rarely plays with those themes - it's usually the ethereal unattached aspect b) if they aren't going to be wood, why aren't they fire? When was the last time you heard someone 'gave a stormy speech'? If I changed those charms to be Fire charms would you even notice?

                        This is not to say that I think the DBs are bad, but I think their charm trees are all over the place in terms of combining utility and theme. Which is why I ask a similar question about the Lunars, how well do their mechanics match the fantasy of boundary-transgressing, tribal warriors/shaman/tricksters (As compared to the Solar's mythical hero archetype)?

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                        • #27
                          I feel like they do a pretty good job there actually. I mean, ok, yes, some charms just grant double 9s or reroll 1s or whatever and it can be hard to make those feel as cool as the charms that, say, let you rip your reflection from a mirror and turn it into a spirit, but broadly speaking, the Lunar Social Influence charms break down as follows:

                          Appearance charms are about being Loved or Feared and even the non-influence ones are all about how people view you, how you view yourself and a bit of how people view each other.

                          Charisma charms are about Passion and Custom. A Lunar doesn't stand at the top of a community handing down laws, they stand before the community giving a passionate speech that reinforces a once beloved custom of the community (possibly by telling everyone that the Realm is coming to take it away from them.)

                          Manipulation charms are about breaking customs and messing with people. These are the charms you want for a silver tongued trickster to so thoroughly distract someone that the trickster can walk them right off a cliff (metaphorically or literally). They also let you transgress boundaries without being punished and help make others ignore such boundaries as well.

                          However, what Lunars don't have are charms for making a calm and rational argument, working in or leading a bureaucratic environment, making laws, etc. Basically, a Lunar can be a popular revolutionary figure or a charismatic leader, but they're unlikely to ever be a superb administrator, while a Solar can easily be both and more besides.


                          ....

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Nabirius View Post
                            This is not to say that I think the DBs are bad, but I think their charm trees are all over the place in terms of combining utility and theme. Which is why I ask a similar question about the Lunars, how well do their mechanics match the fantasy of boundary-transgressing, tribal warriors/shaman/tricksters (As compared to the Solar's mythical hero archetype)?
                            From what I've seen, I'd say it does a good job, although I'm not sure how much better a job it does than the Dragonblooded book does at portraying their themes in their charmsets. I think it will do a little better, but not perfectly. Like there's a charm in Dexterity that just reflexively allows a Lunar to aim, there's really nothing about transgressing boundaries there or anything. There are a huge amount that I think introduce really cool ideas, and look at abilities in very unique, very Lunar ways though. It's just not applied in every case.

                            Part of that might just be because it's difficult to include an entire charmset with everything that a charmset should have and keep it in theme, but it might also be because Exalted have a certain degree of freedom, even the ones who aren't Solars. A Lunar can actually act as a hard bureaucrat who uses the vast intellect granted to them by their Lunar exaltation to make their organization flourish beyond the bounds of human capability, even if that business is like "The Silver Talent Bank." or something very un-shamanistic. So some charms have to be more generic just to give them the support and freedom to do that.

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
                              Charisma charms are about Passion and Custom. A Lunar doesn't stand at the top of a community handing down laws, they stand before the community giving a passionate speech that reinforces a once beloved custom of the community (possibly by telling everyone that the Realm is coming to take it away from them.)
                              Note that the Lunar often has to genuinely care for a thing themselves before they can project it with their Charisma.


                              I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                              Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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                              • #30
                                Do Lunars have more effects for reinforcing social groups against being influenced than Solars, or am I forgetting some Integrity and Socialize Charms?


                                Formerly Inugami, formerly Tornado Wolf.

                                My RWBY Blog on Tumblr: Semblances, Kingdoms, Grimm, and more!

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