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Late reading of Exalted: the Lunars

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  • #76
    Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
    As regards Ma-Ha-Suchi’s description, I think one of the 1e Core chapter fictions has Dace meeting him, so the line about his meetings with solars having “not gone well” is likely a reference to that.
    Considering how Lilith's chapter fiction refers directly to Swan, but her write-up is more open ended about her mate's reincarnation, I think the intention was to be in a similar boat; the fiction is representative of a scenario that was intended to be common to Ma-Ha-Suchi*, and used a signature character as the stand in for that, but the important thing about the Lunar's write-up wasn't that he'd met with any particular Solars. It's just that he's in a position that is both visible and draws petitioners, and has an outlook that was willing to directly meet with Solars, but there's a presumption that his extreme agenda was incompatible with any of them. Having been a Solar (or the Solar) that Ma-Ha-Suchi met could easily be part of a player character's backstory.

    If my read on the intent was correct, I think it was an interesting way to use the Solar sigs; as representatives for significant events that might take place in the lore, but that don't actually belong to them. I think Second Edition's approach weakened that a bit.

    * Although he's still referred to there as being jaded by the politics of the Exalted and preferring his seclusion (while presiding over a raiding culture). In retrospect, I'd say one can easily reconcile that with a character shift by thinking that he was not entirely forthcoming.


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    • #77
      Anja Silverclaws is the feature of the next chapter’s opening; the art style for the illustration is in that more angular form that I never quite got into, but I find her actual design here to be the most preferable to me in terms of the details, with an assortment of charms (that look as though they’re intended to ward the dead), her mildly stylized but still practically fitted dress, and what I find to be a lean muscular build reminiscent of an acrobat. I also like how she’s looking back on a group of figures with death marks on them with a kind of contemptuous expression; considering her backstory, it was always kind of weird how Second Edition art and writing presented her very sexually and flirtatious. The fiction itself is a bit unconventional as these things go; it’s all in third person with no dialogue, using a more poetic style of a kind of repeating structure that continuously elaborates while always punctuating with the same point. The content is a nice layout of how Anja is going around employing stealth and animal shapes to gather intelligence on the goings on of Thorns, before departing on her own terms. Some highlights include the idea that, even in animal shape, she has to be cautious because the Mask of Winters might have spies even among the city’s vermin, it making the point of how even in a city occupied by the Exalted and a Deathlord, their attention can’t be everywhere at once and there’s plenty that is meaningful to discover among the less powerful (while also proposing that her stealth might still contest the observations of rival powers), and how she gets to be pleased with herself and the reputation she might garner for having been one to brave the dead city and come away with vital intel. It’s a good showing of the character (particularly if the intention here is also that she’s supposed to be a younger Lunar), and between this and Third Edition it reminds me of what is compelling about her that Second Edition… didn’t exactly absent, but obscured under poor framing.

      Seeing as this is the character creation chapter, it’s obviously a fairly standard and utilitarian model. I had intended to roll this along with the Traits chapter, but… eh, I’m running behind, I want to post something. I’ll just comment on any details that stand out.

      The description of Caste summarizes the more elaborate social delineations from the prior chapter as aspects of survival instinct as determined by right of passage, with this version of the Changing Moon depicted as defined by stealth and cunning. It also has a sidebar on the Casteless, and here they’ve got to have the shortest shrift of any addition; there are no Favoured Attributes, so without Caste they have to pay full cost on everything (as well as starting with fewer dots and Charms). I take it in this case the value to playing them was solely in the characterisation, as well as maybe the shifting Caste power (although I suspect that retaining the issue of being severely weighted in favour of the admittedly powerful Changing Moon one, and as we’ll see the three days of No Moon anima are useless if you aren’t a sorcerer).

      This is where the premise of totem animal is introduced (presumably not called spirit shape as you can’t turn into it by default). I like how it goes with some non-standard initial examples, such as the elk for one famed for commanding presence, or weasel for cunning ruthlessness. I like how it makes a point of totems being very personal, and animals can convey a wide range of symbolism, such that two very different Lunars can have the same totem. The Tell is described here in its simplest form; it’s specifically a physical trait (said to often, but not always, be tied to totem), and is stated to frequently be silver or white in colour. It states that full rules for it will be in the Charms chapter, but for now conveys the point that how noticeable it is depends on how many times a character has purchased Deadly Beastman Transformation. It mentions choosing Nature here, but a little bit later on there’s a sidebar explaining how the Paragon Nature should be reconciled with Lunars by means of the Silver Way and the four Renowns.

      Let’s see… after everything describing the Changing Moons, tying them specifically to the social Attributes feels tenuous. Interesting to note how they don’t need Caste Attributes to be primary (although I’m not sure if there would be a compelling reason to not do so… maybe if starting Charms were intended for them). Huh, that’s different; in addition to Survival, back then Lunars got four Favoured Abilities. I can kind of see the intent in shifting the emphasis more to Attributes, but this doesn’t seem like a bad idea for having varied them (and maybe helped out with dice pools). It describes how members of the Silver Pact (which here actually does seem intended as synonymous with Lunar society) ought to start out with at least Survival 2 and one combat Ability dot (it’s said to not be strictly necessary, but lacking those is looked down upon, with a very silly note on lacking them being a thing liable to result in murder to allow the Essence to be reborn).
      Huh, so Finding the Spirit’s Shape is not something strictly inherent to Lunars, but all characters who aren’t Casteless are allowed to have it free on top of their starting eight Charms. I wonder if I’ve always heard wrong by it.

      They were unnecessarily complicated, and had issues with weighting investment in the Virtues, but I do kind of miss the old mote pool calculations, and how they could possibly convey character by what they weighted (in this case, Willpower). And… I’m guessing that Renown will scale differently from most traits, because it states that you get to start with twenty, and there are only four things to put them in, they couldn’t possibly cap at five.

      Aaaaand of the questions to fill out Spark of Life, I like how Luna is placed front and centre, to emphasize the formative significance of encountering her. Nothing else to say about these rules; any particular mechanical significance of them has no importance to me right now.


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      • #78
        I want to thank you for taking a fresh look at Lunar 1e. Lunar Exalted are one of my favorite type of Exalted (after Terrestrial Exalted), and I have always felt that Lunar 1e was always dismissed without good reason. In particular, when combined with the rules from Exalted Player Companion 1e and Fair Folk 1e, Lunar 1e allowed me to create a number of mortal NPCs who were effective and memorable allies and opponents of my PCs in my 1e games.
        Last edited by The Fool of Creation; 04-13-2019, 03:06 PM.

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        • #79
          Originally posted by The Fool of Creation View Post
          I want to take you for taking a fresh look at Lunar 1e.
          Well you can't have me, I have too many things to attend to as it is.


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          • #80
            Sorry, that was supposed to be 'thank you', not 'take you'.

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            • #81
              I know, it was a joke.


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              • #82
                So, now that my period of crisis has come to an end, I’m feeling up to putting time and energy back into this subject. I’ll resume in earnest tomorrow.

                Just to get a little start, though, I want to point out something that I’ve come across while looking back over the Making of Exalted artbook.

                As I recall, a popular narrative surrounding Lunars and their perceived lack of evocative or consistent place in the setting came from an idea that they were an ad hoc addition; that they were around at first as an extrapolation of the Fair Folk, and only very rapidly developed into proper, playable Exalted when much of the rest of the setting had been laid down and didn’t quite know what to do with them.

                But looking back on reports of the original developers in that artbook (if one assumes they’re to be believed), that doesn’t seem to be the case. Rather the opposite, in a few manners; Rich Thomas wrote that they were “always an element of Exalted because we wanted to have the potential for World of Darkness players to enjoy a variation of their already established characters”, and Geoff Grabowski stated that he was happy for such a thing to already be part of the setting because he would have otherwise brought it with him.

                There’s a line about how there was a point where the idea for them was as “sane counterpoints to the insane Fair Folk”, which does sound reminiscent of the things some people have said about them having originally been hunting hounds for the Fair Folk. But when that’s placed in the context of the commentary about Fair Folk development, it seems apparent that this wasn’t really about the conceptual evolution of the Lunars themselves, but of the Fair Folk; it wasn’t about Lunars as a vanguard or servants for fae, but that an early idea for fae was that they were what happened to some Lunars after the Usurpation.

                Yet, I’ve often heard the other reading. It makes me wonder how it popped up, and why it perpetuated. It’s interesting to me, considering how hearing other people talk about them has influenced the development of my own outlook on the matter.


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                • #83
                  Glad things have calmed down a bit for you.

                  I always assumed the thought process behind Lunars originally was "We should do Exalted Werewolves. Hmmm... how about if they can turn into all animals instead of just one? And instead of being allergic to silver, they loved silver?"

                  Them as working with the Fair Folk was probably in a phase where Grabowski and other early writers went through a variety of different conceptual ideas.


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                  • #84
                    Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
                    Glad things have calmed down a bit for you.

                    I always assumed the thought process behind Lunars originally was "We should do Exalted Werewolves. Hmmm... how about if they can turn into all animals instead of just one? And instead of being allergic to silver, they loved silver?"

                    Them as working with the Fair Folk was probably in a phase where Grabowski and other early writers went through a variety of different conceptual ideas.
                    The thing I get from the Making Of was that, since part of the basic pitch of the game was that it visually resembled a mythic prehistory for the World of Darkness, there has to be an analogue for Changeling.

                    Grabowski and Rich reportedly grappled with the question of whether or not such elfin beings were conceptually and aesthetically fitting to the setting. Part of the process of trying to reconcile them was to look at them as Lunars whose experience in the Wyld made them lean, sleek and insane.

                    They ultimately moved on to a concept of them being chaotic beings (whose relationship with the world was more complex than Moorcockian demons) who anchored themselves by taking on qualities of the elements.

                    So it appears to me that the drift away from Lunars was a matter of the Fair Folk being developed, and that the association meant that, far from being an afterthought, were integral enough to constitute an entry point for something else considered more dubious.


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                    • #85
                      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                      Lunars and their perceived lack of evocative or consistent place in the setting
                      You've done a lot to show how more of the original Lunars book was better than we've remembered or made it out to be over the years, and I don't quite remember if that including their place in the setting, but...

                      I much prefer the impact the Lunars have made on the history and shape of Creation in Third Edition. Third Edition's Creation would clearly have been very different if the Lunar Exalted had disappeared along with the Solars, given that they are the single greatest reason why the Scarlet Empire doesn't currently control the entire world. The Lunar Exalted are the biggest reason why new Solars can appear in the threshold and survive long enough to accomplish anything in the Time of Tumult.

                      In First Edition, the Lunar Exalted were optional and tepid. The Elders didn't do anything, the youths weren't a real threat to the Empire, and there were practically no generations in-between.

                      The Abyssal Exalted could be said to have more impact on First Edition because one of the Deathlords was responsible for the Great Contagion that helped close the chapter on the First Age, and another Deathlord allowed the Fair Folk Crusade that finished closing the chapter.


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                      • #86
                        Oh absolutely. I've been consistently thinking that whatever might have been in error about how the book was recalled, if that conceptual history is what produced Fangs at the Gate, it was all worth it.

                        And it bears saying that the things I find most compelling in that book are undeniably responses to what was present in First Edition. I get what Grabowski was going for with the infatuation for the "harsh life ethos emerging from impoverished circumstances", but I think there's something powerful in how Fangs interrogates the concept of barbarians while still displaying a lot of what Grabowski was talking about.

                        And I particularly like how, in place of Fair Folk and chimerae, we've got some Lunars who are fully cognisant of what they're doing, and might have understandable, even sympathetic, reasons for it.

                        Originally posted by Sunder the Gold View Post
                        In First Edition, the Lunar Exalted were optional and tepid. The Elders didn't do anything, the youths weren't a real threat to the Empire, and there were practically no generations in-between.
                        Ah I don't know about that now Ted.
                        Last edited by Isator Levi; 05-22-2019, 11:06 AM.


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                        • #87
                          Going back to critiques by former developers, while Holden did dunk on 1e Lunars a bit, I recall a thread in part lost to a forum software error (around 2011, I think) that absolutely ripped into the presentation of 2e Lunars all around. The elders that are terrible forwards and backwards, the factions that make no sense, the inability of the TSR to actually do anything but steal cheap heat... I may be misremembering, but it seems that while 1e was a low point, 2e in that light was presented as even worse. That's before you even get into the 2e Nameless Lair and its Ma-Ha-Suchi; while it might have taken a bit of time, it seems that 2e was intent on making Lunars go from tepid to 1st Chapter Infernals.

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                          • #88
                            Originally posted by Saur Ops Specialist View Post
                            Going back to critiques by former developers, while Holden did dunk on 1e Lunars a bit, I recall a thread in part lost to a forum software error (around 2011, I think) that absolutely ripped into the presentation of 2e Lunars all around. The elders that are terrible forwards and backwards, the factions that make no sense, the inability of the TSR to actually do anything but steal cheap heat... I may be misremembering, but it seems that while 1e was a low point, 2e in that light was presented as even worse. That's before you even get into the 2e Nameless Lair and its Ma-Ha-Suchi; while it might have taken a bit of time, it seems that 2e was intent on making Lunars go from tepid to 1st Chapter Infernals.
                            Recollection of that thread informed my question after reading the First Edition descriptions of the First Age elders.


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                            • #89
                              Okay, so, the backer preview copy of The Realm has come out, and caught me a bit off guard. I'd like to read it in my usual manner, which would end up entailing putting this on hold.

                              Probably not for very long, mind, but still.

                              What I'll do is finish and post my look at the Lunars Traits chapter today, and then transfer attention to the new book.


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                              • #90
                                All right, time to finally get a move on. The Traits chapter opens with a picture depicted at a Dutch angle and set in what looks like a medieval dining hall, showing an unfamiliar young woman with her hands behind her back presiding over a couple of haggard men seated opposite a monstrous person, while the table is laden with things such as a candle entwined with a snake and a bowl containing a rough-faced human head. It turns out that this is Raksi (wearing the skin of a long dead princess) entertaining some petitioners from the Silver Pact. We get a bit of information about Sperimin and (particularly) Mahalanka, such as how Raksi permits the structures to become decrepit and personally mars the ones that are imperishable because she won’t tolerate any beauty within the city exceeding her own. There are some details on Raksi’s followers attending the feast (said to consist of boiled babies and cured hams from young men and women), such as how in contrast to her they prefer to maintain their hybrid shapes to present themselves as a menagerie of horrors fit to terrify even Tiger Warriors; one of them, an ape totem said to be dressed in concealing silk veils, is named as Raksi’s boon companion, reviled in Heaven as an eater of gods, but a lieutenant whom she trusts as a brother.

                                And of course there is Raksi herself. For one thing, her stance is attributed to a habit of coyly concealing her backwards bending claws behind her back. The main focus of the passage is of her regards for the visiting Silver Pact elders (who are described as disgusted by her meal but unwilling to deny the hospitality behind it). They’re said to be there seeking advice in war that she’s fully ready to provide once they sample her table (and possibly after soliciting sex from some), despite being said to not really understand the Silver Pact. Her main assessment of the group is that, while they’re worshipful of her and she’s accepting that, she finds that to just be a stance they put on while trying to manipulate her. This is described as reflecting her outlook on the Pact, and even barbarian peoples as a whole; that they’re too sophisticated, too calculating and formal to truly internalize the wisdom of the Silver Way, and thus can only ever treat it as a means to an end. She’s not really concerned by it as it doesn’t distract from her educating herself with the Book of Three Circles, but still looks to share her supposed insight with them, even while doubting their capacity to learn.
                                It’s interesting to see a piece getting into this version of Raski, considering how I’ve had complaints and relief about no direct depiction of the Second Edition version. As I said before, I think it’s okay for Raksi to be a bastard, and I do find something interesting in this idea of her viewing herself as lacking in pretence, if only as the world view of a character such as that. And I like how it rounds her out a bit with a reference to her having a positive and trusting relationship with somebody (even if he’s not a very nice person either). And there’s the basis for a compelling dynamic in the idea that she’s a magnetic and educating figure among Lunars who is willing to respond to them in hopes that they’ll learn her perspective (while she doesn’t seem to make that level of commitment a condition). I’d say that this fits as a chapter fiction depicting this Edition’s version of her.


                                Now for the meat of the chapter. First up are some altered Backgrounds, justified on the basis of Lunars and barbarians often coming from a significantly different cultural context. Artifact is not so much changed as contextualized, with a description of how moonsilver can possibly change form with a shapeshifting Lunar, reiterating their possessiveness of the metal and things made from it, and describing how this can extend to younger Lunars, possibly requiring a bit of backstory as to why a player is considered worthy to own a piece. Backing is described as an uncommon Background for non-Casteless Lunars, owing to little interest in engaging with groups besides tribe and Silver Pact, and Followers are said to be primarily barbarians and beastmen. Possessing the Manse Background (said to almost always consist of a Celestial aspect due to Silver Pact possession and conversion) is given as typically being the result of seizing a manse from another power or having done service (with a few samples) for an elder rewarded by the right to attune one. The Mentor Background has a bit more of a significant revision, owing to the idea that all young Lunars have some manner of elder teacher; rather than dots connoting the power of the mentor, they represent the degree to which an elder Lunar is involved in the player character’s life, and what kind of proximity they have (with a reminder that even the closest relationships won’t have an elder solving one’s problems for one).

                                There’s a sidebar describing how literacy works in these circumstances (requires an extra dot of Lore than the norm, with barbarians at only one dot assumed to learn through things like songlines), and then the introduction of what was then a new Background, Cult. The basic outline is what became familiar throughout Second Edition, but some of the framing is different. For instance, it’s compared to the Manse Background as a source of Essence (less powerful, but sturdier in the face of opposition), and it clarifies how worshippers don’t need to actually like the character so long as they perform the proper rites (although positive feelings are said to stand up better in the event of a hostile political climate). Solar players starting with the Background is said to be odd enough to require Storyteller permission, and the very highest-ranking Dragon Blooded are said to possess some dots owing to secular veneration of all things. Other than that, the only difference is that the top levels were not described as summoning Wyld Hunts (although the pinnacle is said to be something that will require competing with other gods). I can’t imagine what it was like to newly introduce this concept that the Exalted could be fuelled by worship, but I will say that I appreciate how this rendition laid out a few points clearly.

                                Heart’s Blood is more or less the familiar format, although it happens to include a note on how the consumed blood needs to be drink directly from the prey’s heart or throat, as well as how hunting other Lunars is limited to only their human and totem shape. It also conveniently provides a breakdown of the Charms required to have access to human, large and small shapes, and it is “strongly recommended” that the Background be limited to animals from the Lunar’s local region (if an exception is provided it needs to take the form of a separate purchase of the Background). Heart’s Blood does double duty for human shapes if the character has the proper Charm, although it also requires the Background to be bought separately with that focus (here I’ll admit that I never gave a close enough look before to the Second Edition version, and missed how it made no distinction between human, animal or otherwise for the shapes added towards one’s library).

                                Last of the new Backgrounds is Renown. It provides a brief description of the kinds of deeds that lead to rank and status among Lunars, with dots in the Background representing a young Lunar whose rite of passage or other early exploits had a particular distinction. It’s said to be important for player and Storyteller to collaborate on determining the specifics of those deeds and the traits they evinced, and there’s a warning that high Renown should come with pressure to continuously outdo oneself. Mechanically, dots in the background provide additional starting points that go towards calculating Face (more on that in a bit). I’ll say that, if nothing else, this one at least sets the stage for characters navigating the intricacies and obligations of Lunar society.

                                There’s a sidebar providing ideas on what animals are to be found in each region, and then it’s the Caste write-ups. Full Moon is first… mythic background is given as the moon that shines openly in all of her power and glory, corresponding to Lunars who are direct and straightforward. Described as getting by with the power to batter down all obstacles, dynamos of endless energy and paragons of development, that radiates strength even when at rest. They’re called the greatest warriors of the Silver Pact, with an emphasis on how as they get older, they’re liable to develop a variety of fluid battle styles tailored to hone on enemy weaknesses, and that outside of battle they’ll still hone their prowess with the likes of hunts and (more interesting to me) things like intense physical labour or journeying into harsh wilderness. The trials attributed to them follow those cues, such as how they prove themselves not just with beating enemies or prey to death with bare hands, but carving it up with rapid blade work or pursuit until exhaustion, as well as dealing with treks through wilderness through sheer endurance. There’s a nice accompanying quote about the inability of chains to hold or walls to contain, and that when freedom is acquired the Lunar will come for their captor first, and I think the picture of Strength of Many in his war form looks good, nicely shaded and solid while having an angular face that conveys a firm resolve.

                                The mythos given behind the Changing Moon is how Luna’s phase twisting and shifting over time constitutes deception and misdirection to hide her true face, aligning with Exalted that get by with stealth, cunning and manipulation to guide others to pursue their ends. They’re thus the Silver Pacts premier spies, assassins and leaders, with a talent for getting into places where they don’t belong and bending others to their will, often establishing them as tribal leaders and urban gang commanders, or else just being completely invisible. In keeping with the idea that all Lunars have martial talents, it also describes them as masters of guerrilla warfare as well as premier army commanders; they’re also effective as scouts and infiltrators, able to get into enemy camps unseen or seducing information from dupes. There’s an odd little point about how their commonality in the Threshold means that they’re viewed as being more common than the other two (going by the prior chapter… are they not?), and the trials that mark them consist of things like undermining foes through trickery, bringing down prey with stealth and traps and impressing spirits with grace and charm. I didn’t mention any of the Full Moon extras because they’re in common with Second Edition, but I want to note that the Changing Moon anima power for disguise is described as being unable to be sustained through direct physical activity such as combat or sex, not changing the character’s scent or voice, and that it doesn’t work on the Fair Folk. The illustration of Red Jaws looks a bit more lean, elfin and catlike than the familiar wolf-man, but I like the accompanying quote of “the beasts of nature have a thousand faces. Which of them do you think is mine?”

                                The introduction of the No Moons is a bit more purple than the others after giving the mythos of Luna using full concealment as an opportunity for contemplation and experimentation, with things like describing them as having eyes that are deep pools of forgotten lore and hidden secrets. Then the description of their place in society puts far too much significance on their value as sorcerers, although it does still have the point about how they’re the prime storytellers and lore keepers, often having to rely on empowered memory. Following from their setup as more organised than the other Castes, there’s a description of practices when they’re gathered in council, with youngest members required to demonstrate their capabilities through reciting stories, answering difficult questions and solving complex riddles, in order to continuously hone them for the role of arbitrator and advisor. They’re also said to favour pastimes such as mock combat and target shooting for developing awareness and reaction time, and are expected to be capable of recognizing oncoming threats and adapting to variable circumstances. Trials are said to be dealt with by quick thinking or mystical insight, such as defeating enemies with superior tactics or navigating dangerous situations with comprehension of surroundings, as well as binding or warding ghost or gods. There’s a fun quote in which wisdom is compared to a pretty bird (beautiful to see and to eat), but I find the illustration of Anja to be inferior; a bit too stylized towards a lollipop physique, if you get my meaning.

                                I find the No Moon write-up to be the weakest of them, but overall think they’re fairly decent descriptions of how the Castes live and what they’re about. The Changing Moon one in particular stands out to me, as I find it does a good job of making them compelling and sinister, and appreciate how it doesn’t have any concern whatsoever for the lost Castes.

                                Aaaaand one for the Casteless. It really just reiterates the backstory of the Castes in general (finally stating that exposure to the Wyld caused even the pre-existing Castes to warp and need to be re-fixed in the new template). It does at least provide a brief description of Lunars who go without Caste, but in terms of ones cut off from society and stranded amongst the Threshold, needing to take up with whatever they can manage and generally deficient; there’s no sense that anybody would elect to that existence.

                                For a reason that I cannot fathom, there’s an introductory description of Castes in general that is placed at the end of this. It’s a bit odd to me; it opens with a comparison to Solars by saying that their Castes are divided along aspects of leadership (which… they’re not), and says that the First Age Castes were similarly divided along the lines of war (which seems rather limiting). I do like the Second Age ones being referred to as different applications of survival instinct, though.

                                There’s a bit of the chapter left, but I’m going to just take a break here because I want to get something out on The Realm before the end of the day.


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