Sunday, November 8, 2020

(Ex3) Lunars: Fangs at the Gate

I am not doing myself any favors by reading these gigantic books back-to-back. I will say though that I've noticed PoDs are generally thicker page-for-page. Lunars: Fangs at the Gate had about half the pagecount of M20, but about 75% of the width. Good to know.

As is tradition, if you want my detailed, Exalted-obsessed take on the book, you can find it in the dedicated thread, but I have a feeling that tradition may soon be coming to an end. Lunars: Fangs at the Gate is going to be one of those books that will one-day be called "late-period Exalted." It's arguably one of the best in the whole series, at least on the level of early favorites like Creatures of the Wyld, but it's also hugely inaccessible. I recall fearing, after reading the 3rd edition core, that it would be nigh-impossible to induct new people into the game with that book. Convincing them to use this one is surely an even-bigger hurdle.

Ironically, the new Lunar Charms are better-designed and easier to use than the core's, but there's still 150 pages of them, and to even have context for what they are or why you should care, you'll still need to have read the bulk of the core book. In the end, you're saving at most 20 pages of reading to play a niche inside a niche.

Maybe it's just because it's been so long since the last new Exalted book, but I kind of feel like the series is in a sort of death spiral. It's becoming increasingly adept at talking to its fans, but worse at talking to anyone else. As time and chance wear away segments of the fandom, are they being adequately replaced?

A grim mood to be sure, but I think one that's provoked largely by how much I enjoyed this book. If it were bad, it would be easy to countenance never playing it again. To put it another way, Lunars: Fangs at the Gate was so good that I only lost about half a night to trying to rewrite it, and even then most of my issues were things (like the Craft charms) that it unavoidably inherited from the Core.

Another thing about this new book is that it continues Ex3's trend of bringing its fantasy world more in line with contemporary values. There are few works of fiction, in any genre, where I've seen so many nonbinary characters, and Lilith, one of the most prominent Lunar NPCs, has completely lost the subplot where she stalks the reincarnation of her old, abusive husband. Also, this book is the least rapey Lunars have ever been, by a substantial margin.

Overall, I think it's a good choice. You don't want to think about the real world's problems when you're in the middle of your classical-antiquity-pastiche superhero fantasy. But I also wonder if something is being lost. Not that they should go back to doing it the old way (and brace yourselves for when I read Exalted: the Lunars from 1st edition, because I am going to go off on that book), but I can't deny that is sometimes seems off to me. I think it's because I'm getting old and I'm starting to have these "that's not the way they used to do it" moments.

My final verdict for this one is "please play more Exalted, people." Because if he new team can keep up with this level of quality, I am dying to see the rest of the main books get made.

Ukss Contribution: A lot of neat stuff here, as befits a complex fantasy world. I could make any one of a dozen choices and not go wrong - like Sublime Danger, the shapeshifter with swords for wings, or the Mountain of the Spider King, or the magic that lets you draw your reflection out of the mirror and turn it into a minor god, or the Ichneumon Blades, which snap off pieces of themselves inside their victims and turn them into zombies at their wielder's command.

However, I'm going to go with something relatively simple - Dazul, the town that's ruled by an obsidian statue containing a trapped demon. It mostly works out pretty okay, probably because the only people allowed to talk to it are trained exorcists.

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