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Late reading of Exalted: the Lunars

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  • #91
    All right, finishing off the Traits chapter.

    Going to skip right over the description of the most basic anima powers, and on to their version of the Great Curse. It’s honestly not very good; the whole opening about how it damns Lunars to degenerate into beasts and made it impossible to feel fully at home in human society might have had potential, but I’ll get to that. What’s really weird is the manner in which it is triggered; getting points of Limit from suppressing primary Virtue is all well and good, but the full moon thing is here, and it’s actually stranger than it was in Second Edition, since exposure to it doesn’t just make you have to roll to add points of Limit. A Willpower roll needs to be made, and if it botches then the Curse is triggered immediately and lasts for the night, while if it succeeds… each success equals an hour that the Curse can be held off, before it triggers. So if one is struck by the full moon’s light early enough in the night, there’s no getting away from the Curse. No basis is given for this, no sense of connection or provocation, and it has very little to do with the mythology associated with the actual Full Moon Caste. It’s not very evocative of the personalities of Lunar characters, and is overall strangely impersonal. Kind of makes Limit accumulation from Virtues feel a bit redundant.

    Same goes with the actual specific forms of the Curse (it’s never deigned to be given a name such as Virtue Flaw), as there’s only one for each primary Virtue. The specifics… aren’t exactly terrible, but I don’t quite find them to live up to the premise of being reduced to beasts; you’ve got becoming indecisive, submissive and risk-averse (Compassion), inconsiderate and merciless in the face of vulnerability (Conviction), impulsive and indulgent in the extreme (Temperence), and short-tempered and belligerent (Valor). They’re not terrible as premises for a kind of ironic inversion, but even if that was what they set out to be they end up feeling very bare bones next to the Solar one. The Valor form also has an unpleasant use of the term “autistic” in describing how uncommunicative the Lunar is rendered. I don’t know, the whole thing falls flat to me.

    Hmm, anima banner information feels especially disjointed, since this is where the point about form lock is placed. As for the concept itself, I was never as averse to the premise as most people were, but I can see how it felt contrary to the idea of shapeshifting Exalted. But that’s purely retrospective, in context it’s just another detail.
    Last of all is Status and Face. This begins with a statement that Lunars have an almost instinctual perception of status in general, and a quality that compels them to continuously test peers to figure out relative standing, something described as likely enhanced by upbringing in a culture where rulers needed to continuously demonstrate worth through deeds and gifts. When it comes to relations between Lunars, their own natures and the manner in which they’re scattered throughout the world’s wilderness makes a more formal kind of society impossible, so status is denoted by deeds of strength and wisdom. Yyyyeah I think this section is gilding the lily a bit, to the point that the setup doesn’t quite read to me as making the intended point. I think it would be enough to just state what they value without the backing of “it’s necessary because they can’t maintain something more complex”.

    Anyway, Face is described as primarily (but not exclusively) denoting perceived dedication to the Silver Way, and needs to be earned by personal deeds rather than proximity to another. It’s a measure of respect, so high Face Lunars can be honoured by others even when not particularly liked or otherwise cared for, and there’s no inherent censure to lower Face Lunars openly disagreeing with or disobeying another (although the slighted Lunars themselves might take exception to it and respond accordingly). Last is a statement of how it’s only a form of status among Lunars, although again the example is odd and seems to go on a tangent, with the idea of a Lunar who lives in the Scavenger Lands despite the disapproval of peers. In any case, Lunars with no Face at all are not welcome among fellows, although not persecuted otherwise.

    Next is a description of each of the levels: lowest is the urrach-ya, the ‘nonperson’, denoting Lunars who have abandoned the Silver Way as well as the general attitude for civilized people (which seems contrary to the idea that this is only for assessing Lunars). They aren’t afforded any mercy or respect from other Lunars, if not subjects of outright hostility, and might be subjected to severe exiles to the Wyld when among them (or at least slain without regard for blood-pacts if it comes to that); rising out of this status requires the witness of other Lunars due to perceived untrustworthiness, which is difficult due to typically being shunned. Face proper begins with the nain-ya rank, or ‘kin’, for the newly Exalted who don’t yet pay much more than lip service to the Way, seen as being worthy of leniency but little respect; it’s generally viewed as a state to grow out of, and those who remain at it for years form the bottom rung of Lunar society, and are viewed as irresponsible. It’s said that human barbarians might be viewed in an equivalent manner, although entailing less leeway for straying, while Lunars who came from the civilized Threshold are seen as permissible for taking longer to rise out of it due to the upbringing they need to overcome.

    Uf-ya is the status of the honoured, the expected rank of Lunars who have learned the tenets of the Silver Way and started making a name for themselves, and an acceptable ceiling for Lunars to rise to. It’s said that characters will often fluctuate between that and ikth-ya, the respected, being those who have gone above and beyond expectations by way of deeds such as commanding in war or other feats of distinct heroism; it’s a rank for those who can instruct and command, with valuable (but not undeniable) counsel, while still having others to defer to.

    Getting to the top is murr-ya, the revered, for those who have demonstrated a dedication to the Silver Way despite personal cost and sacrifice to oneself. For this they become viewed as particularly auspicious attendees of a new initiate’s trials, and as wise counsellors and great heroes have the authority to command many others. The pinnacle are the shahan-ya, ‘the greatest’, Lunars who have secured the reverence of a prophet or emperor by honouring the Silver Way even in the face of almost certain death or terrible evils, as well as consistent proof of strength, courage and wisdom. From this they become somebody whose statements are considered to almost be equivalent to direct pronouncements from Luna. It’s emphasized who rare Lunars of that rank are, and the elevation of a new one is treated as cause for celebration throughout their society.

    With the ranks described, it moves on to how one goes about obtaining them, by means of the Renown trait (which is distinct from the Renown Background). It appears that this is where things start getting a bit complicated: Renown comes in four categories, which correspond to the Virtues mixed in with some barbarian value. Each one runs up to one hundred points, with new Lunar characters beginning with twenty to divide between categories. When a Lunar achieves a significant and impressive deed in pursuit of a Virtue, the Virtue is rolled (possibly with bonus dice if the achievement was especially noteworthy), and each success becomes a new point of Renown in the corresponding category. Likewise, transgressing against a Virtue can call for a roll whose successes result in loss of Renown. A point is made here of how higher Virtue ratings thus make it easier to gain and lose status, justified in terms of how greater force of personality creates stronger expectations, and failing to live up to them spreads word from those disappointed or eager for your downfall.

    Each of the Renown categories is then described, with some examples of deeds that might call for them to be raised. Succor links to Compassion, measuring the Silver Way values of generosity or justice; it rises for things such as risking one’s life to save another, granting one’s own prized belongings to another in need, or taking pains to help a rival Lunar, and dropping for displays of needless cruelty or betrayal of guests. Mettle goes with Conviction, showing a capacity to endure hardship and willingness to take harsh measures in pursuit of the well-being of one’s people; it can rise for any display of endurance, fortitude and a willingness to undertake some grim necessity, while it’s risked from being too merciful to dangerous enemies, unwilling to take hard stops or buckling in the face of suffering. Cunning is the province of cleverness and self-control, showing Lunars to be more than mindless brutes, and connects to Temperance (something I view as the most tenuous, speaking to the shaky foundations of that Virtue); it goes up for managing to see through enemy traps and deceits and laying one’s own in turn, resisting wiles and effectively managing fickle spirits, and down for succumbing to temptations (especially to decadence) or acting rashly. Last is Glory, expressed from Valor, covering bravery, battle prowess and honour; testing oneself against and defeating dangerous opponents, resisting sorceries and general daring can lead to its rise, while it can drop as a result of retreat, letting an insult pass or turning down fair challenges.

    There’s a sidebar along the way that connects levels of Face (two per rank) to the minimum total quantities of Renown required to attain each of them, as well as a number of other requirements for certain levels; things such as having defeated equal foes, not having any Attributes below a certain value, and age minimums. The two Face levels of shahan-ya are the most onerous; in addition to requiring more than three hundred Renown points, the first requires having collected one hundred blood-debts from other Lunars, and the very highest needs Luna herself to have praised one’s deeds before an assembly of elders. This dovetails into the description of how to raise Face. Unlike acquiring Renown, it isn’t a mechanical process, just a description of the social procedure; once the minimum requirements are achieved, a Lunar calls together a gathering of peers and boasts of their deeds (or has a credible witness do it on their behalf). There’s also some advice on the specifics of how such activity might be undertaken; things like how the gathering needs to be worth the while of those attending, often with lavish gifts and feasts, and ideas on how the stories ought to be more poetic and epic than merely recounting the facts in detail, as well as the notion that, in boasting of action against enemies, humiliation will often be more lauded than death. If the attendees are suitably impressed or amused, they voice approval and then return to their homes and relay what they’ve heard among Lunar society; this is regarded as increasing Face, rather than needing some ritual confirmation.

    Likewise there’s a description of losing Face, although it ends up much simpler; merely dropping Renown before the minimum level required for each rank is considered sufficient for word of one’s disgrace to spread. There’s also a recommendation for Storyteller’s to use discretion in calling for loss of Face even if Renown remains high enough for it, such as for especially egregious betrayals of the Silver Way or actions such as abuse of one’s charges and refusing to honour debts, as well as offences that concern Lunars as a whole or Luna herself. There’s also a reminder that Face can drop through extended inaction, although it’s phrased in terms of garnering a reputation for laziness or cowardice rather than becoming forgotten or boring.

    Finally is the manner in which Face is respected, which is actually fairly simple; when Lunars who know one another meet, the lower ranked one is expected to make some minor sign of submission (if of equal rank it ends up being mutually exchanged), while unfamiliar Lunars are expected to examine one another for the Tell and other identifying characteristics to figure one another out, at which point they’re supposed to know their relative ranks through reputation and act accordingly; to be required or require another to introduce oneself and state their rank outright is meant to be something shameful.

    Face and Renown… I think they’re interesting concepts, and they’re reasonably fitting to this overall milieu of the Lunar Exalted. I particularly like the description of the events around having one’s status increased and the little touches of roleplaying advice. The problem is that it’s a little bit shaky on whether it’s exclusive to Lunars or not, and the biggest thing is how it entails way too much bookkeeping. The whole idea of continuously needing to track whether or not actions call for a check to add or subtract points, not to mention the sheer quantity of them… it not only strikes me as a severe burden, but it makes the prospect of the upper levels of rank seem like more of an exercise in tedium than especially renowned achievement. It doesn’t help that the consequences for achieving ranks seems fairly sparse. And if I’m being honest, the idea that one’s Renown is expected to spread so rapidly and efficiently through Lunar society seems at odds with earlier descriptions of how they organise and communicate. I’d push the idea that Lunars can reliably call meetings and have some of their neighbours turn up, but the idea that every Lunar within a Direction is supposed to recognise one another and know the status conferred by their peers… I can’t reconcile that. It’s an idea that I like in theory, but think that it falters in some of the details.

    The very last part of the chapter is a sidebar on Lunar regeneration. It makes a point of how, between the properties of their hybrid form and the power of the Halting the Scarlet Flow Charm, which are capable of functioning even if a Lunar is in their dying health level, Lunars are particularly difficult to kill since many can be in a state of rapid healing. It seems like an odd place to put it in the chapter, but at least gives Lunars some more distinct flavour and a touch of the formidable (as well as maybe a bit of context for how much they’re willing to risk themselves or one another).

    I have approximate knowledge of many things.
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    • #92
      I always found it odd how the Silver Way is treated as a purpose or mission statement, when all I remember it being is a set of tenets/laws for how Lunars of the Silver Pact are supposed to behave.

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      • #93
        Which edition's Lunars book is this thread about? First edition?


        • #94
          Originally posted by 99wattr89 View Post
          Which edition's Lunars book is this thread about? First edition?
          Yeah, it's 1e's.

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