Exalted: The Lunars
Exalted: The Lunars Capsule Review by Atratus on 17/11/02
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
xalted: The Lunars is an example of a good book that could have easily been a great book. It covers Lunar Exalted and their society, as well as Wyld Barbarians and their society and the Wyld itself.
Product: Exalted: The Lunars
Author: Bryan Armor, Chris Hartford, James Kiley, Malcolm Sheppard, Ethan Skemp, Scott Taylor
Company/Publisher: White Wolf
Page count: 254
Year published: 2002
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Atratus on 17/11/02
Genre tags: Fantasy Anime
Exalted: The Lunars is an example of a good book that could have easily been a great book. The book contains a lot of good information about the Lunars and the wyld barbarian society. The information presented on the Wyld is one of the best sections of the book and contains tons of plot hooks just begging to be used in game. However the book does suffer from several organizational problems and its primary failing is that it isnít comprehensive enough.
Exalted: The Lunars into eight sections: seven chapters and an Introduction. The Introduction is in the standard White-wolf format. It contains a brief overview of what Lunar are and what each chapter contains, and ends with a Lexicon. The Lexicon takes up about a page and a half of space and will probably be referenced fairly often while reading since the Lunar terms are full of oddball words meant to represent their animal nature, which sounds good on paper but doesnít really help the casual reader in understanding whatís going on.
The first Chapter details the Wyld Barbarians and where they live. Chapter One ties with the section on the Wyld for being the most comprehensive sections in the book. After reading this chapter you should be well prepared for running or playing a game featuring Wyld Barbarians, and should have a fairly complete understanding of their society. Throughout the chapter are notes on how Lunars interact with different parts of their tribes lives, both in the main text and in the grey boxes. The chapter also features several of the various individual tribes and groups, just waiting to be used in your game. The tribes are divided up by which of the four directions they leave in (north, south, east, and west). My personal favorites being the Dune People: a group of albino barbarians who sleep under the sand during the day, and are vicious cannibalistic raiders by night. This Chapter is probably the most easily useful of the book, and one of the best written.
Chapter Two covers Lunar society and is thankfully brief. The content provided is well written, but predicable. The Lunar society covers off very much like Garou society from Werewolf the apocalypse, except with the emphasis on having groups of beastmen and Wyld barbarians with a Lunar leader rather than groups of Lunars. Information on the Lost Castes can be found in this chapter, but it is only about half a page and is only useful as background information. Anyone wishing to run a First Age Lunar game will have do the hard work on these casts on their own, a reoccurring trend with this book. The only area where this section really shines in its all too short detailing of different kinds of beastmen and several of the ancient Lunars. It makes me very happy that they used such unorthodox animals as goats, whales, hawks and owls rather than just traditional big predatory mammals and little creepy things.
Chapter Three is a combination of Character Creation for the Lunar Exalted. Character creation is fairly straightforward other than the charms section (more on that below). I gave the book my D&D/Vampire friend who hasnít rpged in about 6 years and he was able to easily create a character with about 30-40 minutes. I donít see any real problems here other than having to reference a lot of stuff, but thatís fairly standard for any character creation. New Traits includes the Lunarís Tell, Renown, and the Hearts Blood/Shapeshifting stuff. The Lunarís Tell is the parts of him that stay noticeable and identify him as himself no matter what form he takes. This ties in to the Deadly Beastman Form charm, the more powerful the characterís war form, the more unique he looks. Renown works much like it does in Werewolf the Apocalypse and I find it fairly obtrusive here. Status could have just as easily been represented by a Status background or something similar without adding any system mechanics too it. The renown system works in Werewolf because it works as a good guide and goal for new players, but Lunarís is not a game for novice players.
Chapter Four is the new traits for the Lunars. New Backgrounds include Cult and Heartís Blood. Cult gives you extra temporary Willpower, and is always a fun background to have! Heartís Blood is the number of animals or a person whoís Hearts Blood you have drank and whose form you can now take. The size of these forms
Chapter Five covers Charms and is either the best section of the book or the worst. It begins with several pages detailing Lunar Shapeshifting, which is the basis for the majority of the Lunarís powers. The Charms themselves are unique and really well done. The hybrid/warform is achieved by the Deadly Beastman Transformation, which can be taken multiple times. Every time this charm is taken you get an attribute bonus and another gift, which are things like extra arms, tough hide, regeneration, etc. There are also many other neat charms, such as the tentacle charm tree or the various venomous charms. Unfortunately because the Lunarís have favored Attributes and not abilities, the organization of the charms is very poor. It takes a lot of searching and page flipping to find the right Charms, which are very often found far from their charms trees. This makes it very difficult also because you are required to take half your Charms from your favored Attributes, but they are spread throughout and it seems to be difficult to find appropriate Charms during character creation. That is my second complaint about this section: it isnít long enough. There are tons of animal or mystical abilities which should have been covered, but arenít. There arenít any good Charms dealing with flight, burrowing, illusion, or similar things which would seem to be very common among Lunars. I would guess that at least 50% of the Characterís created are going to have to have some unique charms or Beastman gifts. There is also a complete lack on any new Spells or Artifacts unique for Lunars and their absence is felt.
Chapter Six covers the Wyld. This chapter is oddly systems heavy considering the nature of the Wyld, but Iím glad for it. Pretty much everything you could ask for about the Wyld is covered here and then some. It features tons of new afflictions/poxes/et al for adding to make characters and creatures ummÖ more unique to say the least. I was floored when I realized that they actually included rules on creating Exalted characters with Wyld mutations. Essentially they give you powers, but take away starting charms and limit your total essence. Tough but fair rules I believe. Now I can more easily taunt my players with happy, bunny-eared, clumsy Wyld-mutated girls who insist on following them around and cheering them on. This is easily my favorite chapter. The mutations could easily be adapted to new charms/gifts to make up for deficiencies mentioned above.
Chapter Seven talks about Storytelling Lunars. It covers things such as how to keep each character unique, pacing, and what to do when your players each take over a different tribe, breed their own beastmen, form cults, and begin to war on each other. This is a good well written section. There is nothing really new or earth-shattering, but the chapter is solid nonetheless. It will probably prove more useful if I ever actually get to run a Lunars game.
The artwork is fairly good throughout the book. There have been complaints that there are too many wolfmen pictures, but I think there are just about the right amount of wolfmen pictures, what is lacking is more pictures of other beastmen instead of lunars in human or semihuman form. Another thing lacking in this book is a good list of animals. There are several small lists, but it would have been nice to include stats for more animals than can be found in the main Exalted book. However there is an ad for the upcoming ďCreatures of the WyldĒ Exalted book, so I hope they are covered in more depth there.
Despite its flaws, I feel that Exalted: The Lunars is a worthwhile buy. The information found within its covers can add a lot to any Exalted game. The flaws found above really only apply to running a Lunars game, and they can be overcome with just a little work if you have a good group. The primary way I judge if a book was worth buying is did it do the following: make me want to play in game and/or make me want to run a game. Lunar accomplishes both of these many times over,