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Late reading of Exalted: the Lunars

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  • Isator Levi
    replied
    I mean I'm all for rigorous discussion of the things that I've already covered, and my responses to them.

    Indeed, I prefer it. In its absence, it kind of makes me feel as though I'm talking to a wall and that my view count is referring only to the activity of bots.

    It's a really nagging feeling on RPG.Net when I've had threads discussing my playing of Demon's Souls and Xenoblade Chronicles (the latter is still an ongoing process and is being done blind despite the game being close to a decade old).

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  • wastevens
    replied
    Doh! Fair enough. Apologies ><

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  • Isator Levi
    replied
    Originally posted by wastevens View Post
    A lot of the *most* objectionable stuff does come from the Storytelling chapter.
    Still too much detail!

    Originally posted by wastevens
    There was also something of a zeitgeist at the time of the Lunar's release, around WW books; in particular, Mage was probably at or near the zenith of the 'The Technocracy are the people keeping the light of civilization on, and the Traditions hate indoor plumbing' in terms of RPG discourse, as well as a general pushback against civilization-is-the-enemy-let's-return-to-nature-ism.
    Yes, 2002 Internet.

    Originally posted by wastevens
    (On top of that, the Lunars weren't really presented as pursuing any kind of plan
    I think everything from Lilith going around in the opening fiction trying to gather god support for a new Realm in which the Solars are kept more in check, to ones who see the disappearance of the Empress and fracturing of the Realm as an opportunity to lead great hordes in sweeping away civilizations that they view as not good for people's moral character or satisfactory livelihood, to ones who instead want to turn all of that energy against the impending threats of the Fair Folk and the dead kind of put the lie to that.

    Originally posted by wastevens
    Also, a lot of folks just didn't like how *rigid* the Lunar's were presented. Especially the ritual testing / tattooing / strong implication about How To Lunar (and triple that for the Renown lifted from Werewolf). It forced a very specific set of background *stuff* that I think a lot of folks weren't interested in.
    There must have been some epic complaints about how Exalted: the Dragon Blooded presented the majority of Terrestrial Exalted in the world growing up in the Realm, eh?

    Originally posted by wastevens
    On top of that
    I keep saying that I don't want to be told the specifics of what are in parts I have not yet read. Even to the extent that I'm familiar with the complaints about the First Edition Charms, and have seen diagrams of the clouds, I want that to remain stale and distant in my mind so that I can view it with fresher eyes.

    Originally posted by wastevens
    At least, that's how I remember it.
    Part of my thesis here is that how people remember the book has been distorted by time and echo chambering of narratives that weren't necessarily ingenuous takes in the first place.

    Like I said, a way in which Holden once remembered the book was blatantly inaccurate.

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  • wastevens
    replied
    A lot of the *most* objectionable stuff does come from the Storytelling chapter.

    There was also something of a zeitgeist at the time of the Lunar's release, around WW books; in particular, Mage was probably at or near the zenith of the 'The Technocracy are the people keeping the light of civilization on, and the Traditions hate indoor plumbing' in terms of RPG discourse, as well as a general pushback against civilization-is-the-enemy-let's-return-to-nature-ism. (On top of that, the Lunars weren't really presented as pursuing any kind of plan, and Grabowski got... uh, cranky, when people implied they were just sitting on their thumbs waiting for the sky to cave in, but never providing clarification in text or via word of God).

    Also, a lot of folks just didn't like how *rigid* the Lunar's were presented. Especially the ritual testing / tattooing / strong implication about How To Lunar (and triple that for the Renown lifted from Werewolf). It forced a very specific set of background *stuff* that I think a lot of folks weren't interested in.

    On top of that, there were some serious mechanical whoopsies- some are like the charm clouds with intermixed Attributes or having no Appearance charms so as to not penalize ugly totem concepts, ideas that I can squint and understand how they were made; others were like Two-Target Method (an Extra Actions Charm that is strictly worse than splitting your actions was). Not everything was that bad, but the bad ones really stood out, and there wasn't a lot of good to counter-balance them.

    At least, that's how I remember it.

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  • Isator Levi
    replied
    So, next along (after a minor sidebar clarifying on the meaning of “young” Lunars in the context of people who can live several millenia and can be Exalted at any age) is the description of the experience of Exaltation itself; the standard package of typically occurring in moments of great stress (coloured by that survival standard), and elaborating on Luna’s presence in the ordeal. It actually strikes me as being described with slightly more diverse possibilities here than even Fangs at the Gate did, with the inclusion of ideas such as appearing as a vision, as well as sticking around for a variable length of time. We’re given a clear description of the unfixed Caste Mark, and how it not only shifts with the phases of the moon but also varies in brightness and texture; I think that other books have been a bit remiss in that detail, and I like the suggestion that prior to being tattooed, the Mark has a certain instability to it even besides shifting among different Castes. It also talks about the initial rush of predatory instinct (which can draw the Wyld Hunt to them) and making for the wilderness (which can be their salvation); I understand that at this point, even the Lunar’s totem shape was something that they didn’t have by default, but when that’s introduced in these terms, of potentially starting out with an overpowering urge to find their totem and claim its face, I think the notion has some charms.

    There’s a description of what Lunars are liable to do in the early stages of being alone, such as learning their initial powers by instinct (this is still a point at which Charms are described as more discrete things that might need to be tutored by others, with an added note of how Lunars being so promising means that some make it quite far on their own), and with many either living among animals in their manner or seeking authority in barbarian tribes. It lays out the principles behind why other Lunars feel compelled to seek new ones out, such as an unwillingness to let them risk becoming this Edition’s version of chimera without Caste, as well as a wish that they not be slain by the Wyld Hunt. Thus, it describes the processes by which they might be claimed (some within a pre-existing territory who get turned over by their people, some taken with little explanation or argument that would be judged to be time-wasting), as well as making a note of how and why some are not claimed, and can even prosper as legends in the Threshold (albeit required to be a bit discrete).

    Then it gets into the Lunar process of initiation. I’d known before about how Lunar Castes were meant to be unfixed as a matter of course as early as this, but I’m surprised at the idea that the First Age initiations are described as having been focused on determining a previous incarnation’s Caste and putting them into that. If it was a thing to play with, I would have objections, but to frame it as a thing that’s been departed from makes its own compelling point about how they’ve transformed and how they’ve lost some knowledge.

    The trials used to measure a new Lunar’s aptitudes are both described in a bit more detail than they were in Second Edition, and not codified within five specific traits associated with particular Castes that they’re trying to measure. I think the examples given of sample trials are very evocative, especially one concerned with putting an initiate into a hostile environment with only an elaborate riddle to figure out where to find food, and there’s something fun in the idea that all local elders might want to offer suggestions about how the Lunar should be tested. I also like some of the tone attached to the intent of the trials; that the point isn’t to succeed at any or all of them (although doing so can bring acclaim) but to give the tester a sense of how the Lunar tries and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Thus, it’s specifically laid out that while trials won’t pull any punches (to the point that there’s additional acclaim for coming through unmarred), they’re specifically not intended to be lethal; I particularly appreciate how there’s a line saying that elders would sooner have Lunars alive to try something different than dead to prove some kind of point, it’s a nice counter to what some might expect of some kind of Spartan Way. Still, there’s something fun to the idea that the test environments aren’t strictly controlled, and that the potential for interruptions by unexpected enemies and monsters is considered a valid part of the procedure. The two points together give me a nice image; of a Lunar in the middle of some cerebral test who is suddenly set upon by an unexpected fae attack, with their assessor holding back to see how the newbie can adapt and roll with the punches, but also ready to intervene if it looks like the new Exalt might die (after which they offer positive feedback on what they were doing to try). It ends with a description of Directional varieties in the types of scars used to indicate the initiate’s progress, which I like for the varied aesthetic it can provide to Lunars and the premise of allowing ones that have newly met to get an immediate sense of how the other did during their trials.

    There are a couple of sidebars here. One is concerned with the possibility of other Exalted wanting a shot at the kinds of ancient knowledge that only Lunars would have, for which they have to go through their own trials to get status as an “honorary Lunar”; where I liked the descriptions of the trials intended for actual Lunars to be non-lethal, here I have no problem with the idea that the difficulty is increased and the safeties are off, for the given reasons of “a petitioning Exalt can be assumed to already be an ‘adult’” and how they’re a bit protective of their status and secrets. I can sympathise with the idea that their pride might be wounded by an outsider whose performance could be perceived as showing them up, and I think the notion that they’d be resentful of somebody like a Solar making it through unscathed can be a source of compelling conflict. The other sidebar clarifies what becomes of Lunars who don’t acquire Caste; in its own right, it would apparently limit the level of Charms that they can acquire, and also has some of the beginnings of what the Second Edition version would be if they have exposure to the Wyld (said to be a risk hard to avoid without being traded for the danger of greater isolation from other Lunars and proximity to the Realm). Rather than having the potential to become an inchoate mass of mutations, it instead has the idea that shapeshifting can become an increasingly involuntary action, altering form with changes in mood, and the original shape loses some of its special status and gets forgotten; this is described as the prelude to the largely instinctual state of being chimera. It still has issues of a process for taking some Lunars off the table as meaningful characters, but I can at least grant that this is a form that doesn’t diffuse the image of what Lunars are, give them any kind of power that they wouldn’t have already, or attribute the matter to an inherent danger of their own nature; it’s not that there’s an inherent Wyld quality which tries to twist one’s use of shapeshifting, it’s just that shapeshifting can interact with the Wyld in a distinct manner.

    With that out of the way, it gets into the matter of actually fixing the Caste; starting on a point of how sometimes trials go on longer than the tester needs to make a decision, with them sometimes informing the initiate of this and making their final assessment based on the response (which I find to be a cute idea). There’s a statement that the majority of Lunars are Changing Moons, which is tied directly to the idea that they’re successors of the three lost Castes; this is a detail that I’m a bit iffy on, since I have a preference for the idea that Caste fixing is a matter of taking the Lunar on their own merits more than having them be part of a continuous change of role. I feel as though it detracts a bit from the significance of Caste coming after Exaltation in the first place; it feels less like role being a thing determined separately from Exaltation, and more like Solar Castes with extra steps. That said, I’m coming at this with a perspective formed long thereafter, and don’t exactly begrudge this as an early exploration of the concept; it is at least not an incoherent take (and at least lends something to the manner in which the book keeps referring to No Moons when it’s behind a premise of them being a minority of Lunars). The description of the tattooing ritual is also nice; the idea of it taking place under the moon of the new Caste, the description of how the shifting of the Mark gradually stops, and especially the simile of the tattoos having a form like a personalized prayer than a rote format.

    The matter of naming is elaborated upon; I’ve often felt as though there’s an unspoken premise around the line about people taking new names upon Exaltation, and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to elaborate upon it and make it more codified for the loose-knit and old society of Lunars; I like the idea of the so-called moon-name having a particular quality of devotion to Luna. There’s a nice emphasis on the Silver Pact as something distinct from Lunars as a whole with the idea that a representative might approach a new initiate and make a pitch, which requires no further initiation rituals beyond naming; while Lunars as a whole are reasonably accommodating to people retaining their mortal names, the Silver Pact is said to require at least a moon-themed modification to it. An exception to those customs is provided to First Age elders, with a whole premise of many finding their name to be their last possession from the Realm, which nobody has recourse to argue with. In contrast to Second Edition, names as reflecting accomplishments in trials are said to be the exception, given the limited prospect for distinct achievement therein; it’s instead usually determined following a shared psychedelic ritual. Apart from the thing about elders, I would find this section to not be outstanding, but at least appreciate the details.

    Hmm, taking a territory; I recall a few things that might lend a bit of infamy to this part. Well, nothing wrong with it so far; just making the point that many Lunars, free to go where they want upon receiving Caste, opt to claim a domain to reside in (often with authority over the people that they came from). I like how it’s phrased as a recent trend of the last few centuries, to maintain my perspective of Lunar attitudes having transitioned over time. There’s a point about how often young Lunars opt to challenge elders for possession of their more choice territories, which generally fails against the greater experience, but sometimes results in draws (which can lead the elder to take the newcomer as vassal and then they work together to expand their possessions) or occasionally even youthful vigour providing an edge. It can also be occasion to get into conflict with other Exalted, and in any case is framed as a basis to acquire excitement and luxury. Nothing offensive to it here.

    Then it gets into the background of Lunar circles, which at this early stage are referred to as packs. It starts with referring to Lunars as generally sociable among humans, even if their totems are for solitary animals, but older ones tend to become jealous of their possessions and stability and begrudge contact with their fellows. Thus, packs are described as primarily the province of the young, a matter further encouraged by elders who think highly of how their combined strengths can allow them to achieve great feats and have safety against enemies. To that effect, elders are said to want to train young Lunars to function as a unit, which is presented as a task of such difficulty that it’s basically the only thing that will compel elders to gather together and work as a unit themselves; this is presented as a tense and volatile environment in which elders antsy about one another’s presence are liable to get into conflict, which can itself be a form of instruction to the pack in training. I find that idea to make for a dramatic and distinctive background, or even process to play through, especially with the description of how the training consists of even more trials, just ones intended to be overcome with cooperation, coordination, or simply combined effort. There’s also an idea that such training often takes place on neutral territories (which might be specifically set aside to play host for them), or accommodated by an especially respected and powerful elder (such as from the First Age); I just like the idea that pack training consists of a bunch of elders having to leave their comfort zone and struggling a bit with getting along while they provide instruction. When the teachers are satisfied that the pack is ready, they engage in a blood-sharing ritual (which I find to fit with the milieu being given here and have no issue with), a common identifying mark, and a name for the group. Thereafter, a pack is left to sort out its own hierarchy (suggested in terms of authority shifting to the one with greatest established expertise in appropriate circumstances), and there’s a final description holding the pack up as one of the greatest assets that young Lunars might have, to the point of there apparently being Charms that allow them to function as one.

    I’m going to leave it there for the moment, but there’s a point that I want to make. For a long time, my perspective on the contents of this book were based on an archived description of it given by Holden Shearer. He didn’t paint an especially flattering picture of it; the part that I viewed as the greatest indictment was this:

    But the one thing that came through very clearly was that you were not supposed to be some guy from Nexus who Exalted under Solar-like circumstances and did Solar-like things. You definitely ought to Exalt while wiping with a pinecone, and should rape at least four people per day who believed in the heresy of toilet paper.

    Oh, and they are full of natural instincts to go claim some territory and insanely attack anything that comes near it, including other Lunars, because they're like, animalistic loners, man.

    In a game that is designed for 3-5 players.
    And it’s just… not very accurate. Maybe the much maligned Storytelling chapter will do something different, I don’t know (and don’t wish to be told in detail before I get a look at it for myself), but even then that’s not a matter of clearly being about or excluding certain things. Never mind the points dotted all over making various kinds of accommodations, or the description that puts the trends into a context that both makes them a matter of circumstance and history and, thus, gives a means of playing somebody who does not particularly fit them. The thing that really stands out to me is the description of the territory thing being at odds with it being a group game, given how I’ve just gone through the section describing precisely how to make it a game for 3-5 players. The part I’ve already read about territories does not in any way attribute it to instinct, and describes scenarios in which custody between elder and youth can be shared. The part about packs (and another territory description a bit later that I skipped ahead a bit to skim) could not be clearer on how the part about being severely territorial is the province of elders who have a few centuries behind them, and is specifically contrasted against the kind of cooperation that goes on in a group of playable Lunars (combined with the prior sidebar making it clear that the kinds of “young” Lunars that are said to make up packs can be Exalted for decades). And like I said, I find the notion of that territoriality being a source of tension when those elders come together to mentor packs to be a compelling source of drama.

    I’m commenting on this now, because it’s a point where I’m seeing outright contradictions to the popular wisdom about how faulty and inept the book was. It kind of makes me wonder if there are any further faults in the reasoning or recollection of talking points springing from the 2002 Internet.

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  • HamSandLich
    replied
    Strength of Many always seemed to me like he had a decent grasp on mass movement psychology, or at least someone who wanted to get a good grasp on it. Since a good chunk of creation's economy is dependent on slavery, SoM knows he needs to send psychological messages to both slaves and slavers and trigger massive social change, he can't just kill slavers, he needs to kill them in the most dramatic, attention-grabbing, awe inspiring way he can because that's how mass movements get started. His bond with Sulumor in 2e makes a lot of sense when you think of him in the context of abolitionists, anti-colonialists, and reformers. Hell-nun may have a huge authoritarian streak, but the Dune People have an equally huge taboo against slavery.

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  • Saur Ops Specialist
    replied
    Originally posted by Sunder the Gold View Post
    He’s a little like the Goblin Slayer of the Silver Pact. An absolute monomaniacal focus on one problem made up of small parts, and an utter disregard for the lack of respect his crusade brings him among his peers.
    I don't get that kind of read off of him. At the very least, he seems to be way more sociable when not at work with it, and keener to help other Lunars with non-slaver related face punching. Just because he has a drive to do something that needs to be done doesn't mean he's completely out of the game.

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  • Sunder the Gold
    replied
    Originally posted by Aliasi View Post
    Re: Strength of Many, fighting slavers is like punching out Nazis: it never goes out of style.
    He’s a little like the Goblin Slayer of the Silver Pact. An absolute monomaniacal focus on one problem made up of small parts, and an utter disregard for the lack of respect his crusade brings him among his peers.

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  • Aliasi
    replied
    Re: Strength of Many, fighting slavers is like punching out Nazis: it never goes out of style.

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  • Isator Levi
    replied
    I get three words into your post before finding that I don't want to be coloured by preconceptions or biases to any degree more than I have been by a decade of discourse.

    So yes, I actually shall be surprised, one way or another, by whatever it might say. Who knows, perhaps I'll end up surprising you in turn. The important thing is for neither of us to know ahead of time.

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  • Saur Ops Specialist
    replied
    You'd be surprised, just after reading this, how readily that bit about Lunar Exaltation and the practicalities of which Lunars are more likely to survive gets buried under other sentiments. Bask in its shining promise for now; it's still a bit of a while yet before everything goes mind-numbingly sideways.

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  • Isator Levi
    replied
    Okay, so there’s been an Introduction that I’ve seen a good amount of promise in and a setting chapter that, while somewhat mixed, effectively presents the world that a lot of the Lunar Exalted will be operating within. I think that’s all a good setup to spotlight those Exalted, and get a first-hand look at what this Edition tried to make of them in detail.

    For a start, there’s a picture of Strength of Many, and I’ll give you three guesses as to what activity he’s engaged in. Nah, in all seriousness, I’m currently feeling in a better mood about that Exalt than I ever have; I recently reviewed the section of Debt: the first 5000 years concerning the history of the West African slave trade, and imagining something like that scenario playing out in Creation, of an initial rampage of raiding followed by merchants offering nominal peace and relief while promoting extremely expensive secret societies as a system for manipulating a populace into selling itself into servitude… yeah, have at those motherfuckers you big bull. The narrative itself is fairly standard, with Strength of Many being accosted by a bunch of slavers before they discover that he’s a Lunar; I might have thought that there consideration of castrating him would be laying it on a bit thick, but well… I brushed up on a few accounts. The description of how he fights in the Lunar manner of overwhelming power, surprising speed and regenerating wounds, plus the way he employs terror tactics in pursuing the ones that fled, is well written, and considering the setup of the Silver Way I like the description of how Strength’s actions are something that wouldn’t gain him prestige among his peers, but that he’s unconcerned with that since he views it as a service to all humanity. I think I like him more in this story than I have in any other depiction.

    So, proper start to Chapter Two: The Lunars. It starts off unusually with another fiction piece, of a new young Lunar being chased by Uka the Boar so that he can explain to her what she is and bring her into the fold. It had me as an interesting piece to convey the experience of a fresh Exalt in being recruited by an elder, but loses me a little bit in the manner of the circumstances of the Exaltation having been from Uka attacking her village, for which he is not remorseful, and even somewhat mocking. I’m not against characters in the setting having problem values, I just wonder a bit at the intended tone when it seems to veer from him being a kind of inspiring presence to her declaring him as her sworn enemy.

    The first proper section of the chapter gives a basic overview of the contrast between the Lunars of the Old Realm and those of the Age of Sorrows, and… oh dear, it does not seem to be following the cues from the Introduction very much at all. The idea that time had made them more bestial would be all right, although I’d have concerns about what they do with that and it being attributed to internalising the Wyld. But then it gets into their views on “civilization”, and not only does it here go really hard on the primitivism stuff, it’s kind of phrasing it as something inherent to the Lunar mindset and something in common with little variation. Not off to the best start.

    That’s followed by a description of how they’re viewed by various outsiders, both in literal terms of their physical appearance and how they’re conceived of culturally. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in principle with the language here; the description of how fearsome and beautiful they are is a bit more severe than later Editions would do, but it’s still the general idea of Lunars that I like and it seems fitting to the overall tone that the Edition is going for. I think it’s particularly good to have the idea that even in the Realm, there are some who romanticize them in literature, I think it gives a good picture of barbarians venerating them for reasons including being their champions, and if I read the matter of beastmen in terms of close kin and descendants across a long span of time (and being somebody who never really objected to the mythic zoophilia aspects), I do think there’s something compelling in the idea that they see themselves in the image of their ancestor as being a mark of a blessed bloodline. And I think there’s something worthwhile to the description of them having been driven to an extreme that should have destroyed them and left them forgotten, but they refuse to succumb and are preparing to return to the world on their own terms.

    There’s a description of Luna, which focuses on her as a shapeshifting queen of the night, a patron of beasts and illusions, and someone to whom Lunars have a very intimate (and varied) relationship with. It places the significance of that relationship and the gifts she bestows in terms of everything else that Lunars used to have but have lost, creating this image of how they more greatly value the connection to Luna for being the most significant thing they have left. That’s then used as the foundation for their possessiveness of moonsilver, since they see it as among her gifts to them and that it’s a slight and a blasphemy for anybody else to handle it. I’m a bit critical of how it seems to want to have its cake and eat it to with regards to gender, since it says that Luna is neither truly male or female, but mostly favours female or feminine shapes as a reflection of her nature, but I overall think it’s a good description of Lunar spirituality in relation to a manifested deity. The picture next to it doesn’t look very good to me; just a generically pretty thin woman with oddly emphasized breasts and weird pointy hair, surrounded by some swirls of mist or fabric.

    Lunar society is introduced as something fluid and widely distributed, owing to how many Lunars have more contact with mortal adherents than they do one another, referring to what unity they have as being owed to the No Moons and the Silver Pact. It took me a fairly deep read into this section to realise that it’s presenting something quite at odds with what is familiar to me; that here, the Silver Pact is apparently not supposed to be virtually synonymous with all Lunars; rather, it’s a secret society within them dedicated to the dissemination of useful knowledge (of the Castes involved, Changing Moons are given short shrift, described vaguely as “working for the greater good in countless subtle ways”) and organising cooperation among typically isolationist Lunars, as well as saving and training the newly Exalted. Their priorities are described as giving them a greater inclination and capacity to operate closer to the Realm (especially to find fresh Lunars and get them out quickly), which is also described as being the basis of their own greater contempt for the Realm and its oppressive measures. We’re even given a fairly solid number in the form of about half of Lunars being part of the Pact, with the rest being those who either prefer their own independent dominion or old No Moons who have a proprietary take on keeping and distributing lore (which is said to sometimes create scenarios where conservative No Moons and Pact recruiters find the same neophyte, and fight over who gets to be the teacher). And while the Introduction attributed division within the Pact to different priorities concerning what the main target of their efforts was, here it’s described as a matter of whether or not to view Solars as potential tools and allies in destroying the Realm, or else fear and oppose the possibility that they’ll build it up stronger and more all-encompassing than ever; that has problems for book consistency, but does still make for a compelling picture of ongoing conflict.

    I still think that this is an interesting approach to the Lunars, a division between those who would want to see them as a unified host to redress the grievances they take with the world and ones who prefer to keep to themselves and their own power. It’s a basis for conflict in Lunar centred stories and some interesting history between any given characters.

    Then there’s an explanation of how members of the Silver Pact summon councils for communication and coordination (which are still reasonably limited to generally only being between four and a dozen). They are said to do this with the elegantly straightforward method of leaving messages designating a time and place (in the form of marked enemy skulls) in places that are known to be frequented by Lunars, preferably in spots that would be inaccessible to anybody that wasn’t a Lunar, and just waiting to see who turns up. And… yeah, that sounds like it would do it. It’s pretty sensible and practical, and… I’m getting the oddest sense of déjà vu…. anyway, is reminiscent of how many secret societies and revolutionary movements have actually managed to overcome the difficulties of being unable to communicate directly. It even points out how they would typically need to leave numerous skulls to maximize the odds of getting attention, and the reference to designating a general time and place should give a sense of how they’re making accommodation for not everybody being able to arrive according to a strict schedule (and gives me the interesting picture of a few of the early arrivals spending a few days mingling and wondering who might show up, before formally starting proceedings). Whatever the merits of the rest of the book, something like this feels as though it should have been referenced every time people have complained about the practicalities of Silver Pact coordination when they’re supposed to be all over the shop. That it takes an ominous form that people tell scary stories about is just icing on top. That’s followed by a description of the speaking order, which is given as either having the attendee of highest repute speak first, or defer the right to the one who called the meeting (generally expected to explain their intentions in doing so), after which it becomes more informal but for the insult of speaking over someone with equal or greater status. As something for the kind of culture that this Edition’s version of the Pact seems to evince, I think it’s fine. That’s followed by a sidebar describing claw-speak, which… I’ve honestly never really understood people’s objections to? Like, those kinds of coded symbols as a method of proprietary communication have been employed by itinerant peoples, secret societies, revolutionary movements and criminal organisations since time immemorial; attributing one to the Silver Pact just reinforces what the group is, and describing it as something that can be managed with animal limbs is both characteristic to them and affords a capacity to effectively leave a message while staying in disguise.

    Then there’s a passage describing the Time of Tumult from the perspective of the Silver Pact (and maybe Lunars as a whole); that the weaknesses of the Realm in the current era not only display a means by which they’ll be capable of taking it down, but demonstrates the reasons why it ought to be taken down (as well as why they see the returned Solars as not being up to the task). It uses some of the primitivist rhetoric again, but honestly in this context, in terms of pointing out how the failings of both Realms and their satellite societies are engendering their own downfalls and creating opportunities for the Deathlords and Fair Folk it… actually reads a lot better to me. Like, it’s an ethos that I can understand in the circumstances it’s being expressed in, and I think it goes effectively with the point of presenting this as a conflicted time that gives Lunars an opportunity to rise to prominence and do right by the world as they see it. I do not think it’s a bad tone to start their stories off with.

    Now there’s a section describing the premises of the Exaltation itself. It starts by explicitly laying out a premise that has long since become very familiar in discussions concerning the game; how the Lunars, with their common traditions and very loosely organised society, and a goddess who’ll appear to them personally at least once but never really explains her reasoning, lie somewhere in between the Solars (who are all basically on their own), and the Dragon Blooded (of the Realm) who spend their whole lives being prepared for Exaltation and are inducted into an elaborate society consisting of vast numbers of them. I think it’s very good to lay out that premise for their social scene, to effectively distinguish it from the other Exalted. This is also the point at which it introduces the matter of how Caste is determined after Exaltation, by peer review and one’s initial deeds. To the extent that there’s value in the idea of presenting Lunars as hardened by circumstance, I think it’s worthwhile to frame all of this in terms of how the certainties and benefits that they start out with are limited.

    That’s followed by laying out premises behind why they’re Chosen. The basic principle established is that the Essence is drawn to people who struggle for survival against the odds, clarified in terms of individuals for whom safety and comfort in the long term are not a given; that’s suggested to not only be the likes of farmers trying to get by on limited means or barbarians for whom they can only expect as much as they can acquire on a daily basis, but also people in cities and complex society who are disenfranchised in some manner. It’s stated that most Lunars themselves don’t fully recognise this commonality, but instead see Luna’s favour as a more fickle, inscrutable thing, with beliefs in Exaltation just because somebody was particularly beautiful, or even as a kind of divine prank. Finally, it states that the majority of contemporary Lunars are people who are born into frontier and barbarian lifestyles, but apart from the implication of the preceding text that such people are liable to more commonly have the circumstances that create such Exalted in the current age, it explicitly lays out the idea that those ones have much longer odds of surviving the Wyld Hunt before No Moons or the Silver Pact can get to them than the ones who appear in the Threshold or the Realm; at the same time, it says that Lunars look at that trend, and extrapolate from it that Luna has a preference for barbarian lifestyles.

    That… is a great idea, and it’s really clever. I’d been wondering before how much of some things said about Luna were supposed to be what was genuine and what was merely imposed, and took a lot of promise from the section dedicated to her, and this has cemented it. So here we have the Lunar Exalted, established to be very spiritual because of their personal relationship with their patron, seeing one another as a divine kinship, who then go and impose biases upon her because of unnuanced readings of their current circumstances and the perspectives that it entails, creating a confirmation bias about the values of those circumstances and perspectives, that they then becoming dedicated to promoting. It touches on so many things I love about human psychology and society and relationships, particularly in the manner that it makes clear that the genuine existence of supernatural and divine forces doesn’t make people any more objective about those things. I’m going to reserve total judgement until I’ve read the full chapter, but this tentatively redeems the stuff from the start of the chapter that I had concerns about. Because when I read that part in the context of this one, it goes from “a contempt for civilization is something inherent to Lunars” to “a contempt for civilization is part of a self-reinforcing loop in which Lunars who already have issues with the Threshold see the prevalence of that viewpoint amongst themselves, ascribe holiness to it, and become more firmly dedicated to imposing it upon the world”. It jumps right out of my read from the Introduction chapter that the values that would lead to making war upon the Threshold constitute a form of radicalization. If they can just stick to this course, it would do a lot to both justify this sentiment among Lunars, and make their outlook very distinct and compelling within the setting.


    On that note, I’ll leave it for the evening.

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  • Saur Ops Specialist
    replied
    The term, I think, is traditional economy.

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  • Isator Levi
    replied
    Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
    So, it’s potentially useful reading if you want to build a “barbarian” society, provided you can ignore the primitivist rhetoric?
    That would be my opinion of it.

    Speaking of the quote-unquote barbarians; the whole time I've been reading this, I've been thinking about how at the time of various English conquests of the Irish, the former were living in a manner of either 11th century manorial feudalism or 16-17th century mercantile, urbanised and increasingly centralised, while in either case the Gaels were still living with a lot of old Celtic style and customs and economics. I feel as though there should be a term for that contrast which isn't loaded, but the whole time it's been eluding me.

    Reading Fangs at the Gate being clear that it wasn't going to use the term "barbarian" put me in mind of how, in the past few years, I've been employing that term as a shorthand whenever discussion Dominions or similarly structured societies; it never really sat right with me because of how loaded the term is, but in an environment where it's being specifically left out, it leaves me wondering if there's a viable alternative.

    (This acknowledging that there are Dominions who aren't structured in that manner either, whether it be the former satrapy liberated by the signature circle or the likes of Mahalanka, Sunken Luthe, and somewhat Iscomay)

    But yeah, as a basic guidebook for how such a society might be structured, what its concerns and values could be, and the kind of magic and divinity that it gets exposed to, one could do a lot worse.

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  • BrilliantRain
    replied
    So, it’s potentially useful reading if you want to build a “barbarian” society, provided you can ignore the primitivist rhetoric?

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