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Lunar Exalted HOWTO

The purpose of this section is to explain how to get the most out of your Lunar character. It involves breaking some preconceptions about how Lunars "should" work, but if you are willing to do that, those crazy-ass shapeshifters can be a lot of fun.

Grokking the Lunar

Some of the following are preconceptions, myths, misunderstandings, and outright untruths about what the Lunars are, what they are good at, and what they should be like. Where possible, page references are provided for the Lunars hardback.

  • Lunars are all loincloth-wearing barbarians - FALSE

Lunars are survivors. That their culture incorporates and encourages barbarism is a consequence of that. But you can have city Lunars, woodland Lunars, northern Lunars, and, yes, even Realm Lunars. Wherever people struggle against death and dishonor, showing bravery, courage, and cunning, the Lunar Exaltation can come. Nor do all Lunars have to be members of the Silver Pact, even if their Castes are fixed. Developer comments

  • Lunars are locked into using DBT for combat effectiveness - FALSE

DBT provides only three things: a new "true form", attribute boosts, and Gifts, most of which are essentially no-cost Charms limited to "when in DBT form only". Although DBT is central to the Lunar combat strategy, it is not required. Lunar Charms are often limited by attributes, which DBT raises, but many Lunar attack strategies don't require you have Dex 12 in order to work. Developer comments

  • Lunars are talented generalists, like Solars - FALSE

Most people don't realize that they make this assumption. They start with "Solars, with shapeshifting" as their model, and go from there, only to be disappointed when it doesn't work. Where Solars diversify and perfect, Lunars focus and specialize. If that is not the sort of character you want to run, the Lunars may not be for you.

  • Lunars are notably tougher than Solars - FALSE

I don't see many people contesting this one. However, it's here to balance the other idea, which is...

  • Lunars are notably weaker than Solars - FALSE

Make whatever arguments you like about this. Mine is that Lunars are GREAT at what they do. If "what they do" doesn't jive with what you WANT them to do, well, whose fault is that? Developer comments Developer comments

  • Lunars need to form images in the air to qualify as illusionists - FALSE

This is D&D thinking. See below for a discussion about how tricky Lunars can be. Developer comments

Lunar Charm Effectiveness

This section will discuss the overall effectiveness of the Lunar Charm trees.

Lunar Illusions

This section discusses ways in which Lunars can craft "illusions" that don't depend on casting phantasmal force.

What Is an Illusion?

Broadly speaking, an illusion is anything that deceives the viewer about what is going on. Modern stage magicians are often called illusionists, and it is this template (rather than the D&D Wizard) that players should examine.

What Illusions Can Lunars Employ?

A sufficiently skilled and experienced Lunar can:

  • imitate any animal whose heart's blood they have consumed (innate Lunar power)
  • imitate anyone they are familiar with for the scene (Changing Moon anima power)
  • imitate a human being whose heart's blood they have consumed (Prey's Skin Disguise)
  • adjust details of their "true" shapes (Shaping the Ideal Form), or adjust someone else (Lunar Blood Reshaping Technique)
  • avoid detection while sneaking around (Stealthy Fox Method, Chameleon Skin Disguise)
  • use the terrain to hide an object (Object-Concealing Method) or person (Ally-Concealing Method)
  • coordinate with an ally by passing hidden messages to him (Wind-Speaking Method)
  • manipulate the emotions and Virtues of listeners (Emotion-Shaping Technique) or influence someone specific to act (Glib Tongue Technique)

Many Lunar Charms, including those above as well as others, can be put to use for all kinds of misdirection, legerdemain and deceit.

Give Me An Example of Lunar Illusions

Rabby, a Changing Moon Lunar, has approached a Guild caravan with the intent to destroy it. The caravan-master and his savants have warded the entire caravan against intruding elementals and can sense the approach of spirits, so she must rely on her own abilities.

First of all, she requires intelligence about the goings-on within the caravan. To do this, she waits for nightfall. As a mouse, she creeps toward the wagon-wheels of a poorly-lit wagon. She waits for the patrols to pass her by, then uses the form of a mighty creature - a dire bear or something similar - to maul the wheel badly enough to make it unusable. This takes seconds; by the time the alerted guards come, they find nothing. None see the tiny mouse hovering nearby in the grass.

With some of her Essence regained, Rabby waits. In time the man she wishes to meet approaches - an assistant to the caravan master, come to assess the damage. The man ignores the purring kitten rubbing against his leg as he speaks angrily to the guards and others, unconscious that the Sense-Borrowing Method Charm Rabby laid on him is now in operation. Satisfied, the cat curls up on a nearby ledge, as all cats are wont to do; she will not be disturbed.

The caravan assistant brings word to the caravan-master, and through his eyes Rabby observes all - the layout of the rooms and compartments in the wagons, the men and women who are and are not allowed to enter, the vices of the master as subtly hidden in the corners of the room while the assistant speaks. The master grunts, unhappy but satisfied by the report; Rabby withdraws her Essence. She has found what she needs.

Later on, the assistant dies soundlessly, and Rabby consumes his heart's blood. Using the Prey's Skin Disguise Charm, she effortlessly penetrates the sanctum again, and through the use of Glib Tongue Technique convinces the master that something merits his personal attention. He leaves, and Rabby seems to follow him, but through the use of Stealthy Fox Method she leaves his awareness and doubles back before he can suspect. Using the Tool-Hand Technique, she picks her way into the glittering chest she observed earlier and purloins a choice collection of gems, jewelry, and other valuables. And she leaves something else behind, as well. With Object-Concealing Method, she can be sure the master will not discover it. In fact, it will only be found when searched for, which is exactly what she wants. Disappearing into the night, she buries the stolen loot and waits for dawn.

That evening, the master is in a furious temper. During the day, the appearance of his assistant has accompanied the disappearance of several other valuables, including certain rarities being transported as cargo. The caravan's wheel is damaged, to be sure, leaving time to fully investigate the matter.

Later on, the assistant re-appears - with a startling piece of news. The caravan master has hidden the stolen goods in the local forest, and a map to the place can be found in his cabin. Through Emotion-Shaping Technique, Rabby's convincing speech influences even the most diehard loyalist to the master to at least agree to a search. And lo and behold, such a map is found. Convicted of stealing from his own caravan and of using his own accusations of theft to deflect suspicion, the master is set in chains.

And his falsely-accused assistant, now cleared of all charges with a convincing story, is put in charge until the next city ...


It takes roughly 100 experience for your example Lunette to get the body of Charms she needs. She must take 18 Charms, at least, to fulfill her prerequisites. Of those Charms, she has to take 4 from outside of her caste attributes, racking up training time, and among the Charms taken are such charms as Many-Faced Moon Transformation - utterly useless for a Lunar with Prey's Skin Disguise, and Towering Beast, which is somewhat outside the core competency of a stealth-focused Changing Moon. And for what? To convincingly frame a caravan owner of theft in order to take his position?
I'm a Solar. I waltz in brazenly. I drop 15 successes on Socialize thanks to, what, two Charms? He hands me the reins of his own free will.
I'm a Sidereal. I join the caravan as a tally-counter. I walk in using Underling Invisibility Practice. I use that Stealth charm that lets me make people her my voice as their own thoughts. The caravan leader hands his reins to the new tally-man because he has recently thought of how much he'd like to retire and how much he distrusts his assistant. The tally-man's Hot-Eyed Snake Whisperings only puts another nail in the coffin. Oh, and he regains Essence from Stern Essence Replenishment.

Both of those builds are starting-character-friendly and don't require extension beyond favored or caste Charms. Lunars aren't shafted because their charms are ATROCIOUS - they can accomplish social and stealth, sure - it's just that they have to invest so damn MUCH to get to the decent Charms. ~ BerserkSeraph

The example is not intended to demonstrate the minimum ability necessary to accomplish the goal - it is designed to show a large set of Charms being used in pursuit of a goal, and to suggest unconventional uses for certain Charms. Please read it in that light. If you want a "what can a starting Lunar do?" example, I can write one easily enough. And just to make it interesting, feel free to suggest an appropriate challenge to overcome, if you like. :) -- BillGarrett
Awright. Reform the bureaucracy of the Realm without cracking your cover. You are limited to the Charms available to a starting Lunar. Assume that you cannot afford to raise your Essence without undermining the skill and Background sets you'll need to accomplish the legwork - if you can find a way around said work, go ahead and do it.
Edit: In fairness, I will attempt the same character with my revised Lunars - I won't post him or her yet, 'cos I want to see how you'd do it canonically first. It'll help me round out my revision for effects I've missed.
My point was more that, while individual Lunar charms DO have applications - and indeed a good deal of 'oomph' - their tangled Charm Trees and their ineptitude at certain facets of interaction (they're balls at bureaucracy) is what makes them, blanket-statement, less flexible than other Exalt types. And while they are SUPPOSED to specialize, they are crippled in THAT regard by the way their Charm trees are set up and their lack of access to Charms without 2-3 caveats on their applications and effects. ~ BerserkSeraph
PS: I disagree summarily with the inference that DBT isn't utterly necessary for a high-end Lunar combatant. The Attribute caps ENSURE that the rich get richer, whereas a Lunar without it will soon find his dice pools overcome by DYNASTS, much less his fellow Celestials. Sidereals get away from their bad cap by having TN reducers- Lunars need DBT to affect similar potence. This is essentially the same as saying there are Solar defense strategies that don't include perfects and persistents - yeah, there are. They're markedly inferior to the alternative
Are you sure "reform the bureaucracy of the entire Realm" is a fair challenge for ANY starting character, Solar, Lunar or otherwise? :) You MIGHT make an argument for the Sidereals, but they have clear cultural advantages in affecting the Realm - and similarly, it must be recognized that Lunars have clear cultural disadvantages in doing so. But that's fine - we'll start with the satraps and work inwards. I will categorically disallow any counterproposal similar to "a Solar wields 17 Performance successes and just does it" on the grounds that canonically, they HAVEN'T.
It was the first bad idea to come to mind, and it's somewhat purposeful - I hold that Lunars, as is, are balls at Bureaucracy, and that this shoehorns them into situations where they can't successfully run an empire. As much of Exalted involves the intrigue of ancient-China-esque social politics, I object categorically to any Exalt that's no good at fulfilling his role under Heaven. Just because the Solars were the executive branch doesn't mean the judiciary branch should be allowed to be incompetent - the Lunars lack the appreciable social oomph to fulfill their First Age roles.
I'll allow you to use the BerserkSeraph/AbilityLunars starting numbers for backgrounds and charms, in order to balance the playing field a little - as my Lunars are assumed to be omnipresent, and yours will likely be an outsider in the Realm, I think it's fair to allow you that courtesy.
As for DBT, once you say "high-end Lunar combatant", yes, DBT is obviously the good choice. You might also say "high-end combat Solars are locked into persistent defense Charms". But not all Lunars will be high-end combat monsters, and the medium range Lunar fighters can get by without taking DBT even once. THAT is what I consider "charm lock-in" - that everyone must take something, not merely the guys trying to be really good in the sphere of action the Charm lies in. -- BillGarrett
Ah, but taking a persistent defense doesn't noticably and visibily retard your social abilities! DBT does. It penalizes players socially for combat power, in a game where most characters excel in facets of both. Worse, it retards the ability to use shapechanging as an adequate disguise, for an Exalt type that is practically reliant on that shtick to accomplish non-combat goals. ~ BerserkSeraph
Let me see if I understand this. "A high-level Lunar combatant sacrifices his ability to sneak around or talk smoothly and go undiscovered". In other words, "Lunars are not talented generalists"? Yeah, I agree completely. To the extent that you dislike this, don't play Lunars, or revise them as it seems you are doing. But saying "everyone else gets to be generally good" isn't really a compelling argument to me :) -- BillGarrett
Any Lunar that wants to make a reasonable contribution to Celestial-level combat will likely take DBT. Any Lunar that wants to make a reasonable contribution to Celestial-level, high-experience combat MUST take DBT. As Lunars are portrayed as 'warrior-shapechangers', making these two mutually exclusive creates an interesting conundrum in that a Lunar that wants to be good at what Lunars are supposedly good at - that is, imitation and combat - cannot, while one that wishes to excel at one may only do so at the expense of another. Generalization isn't 'being good at two things', it's 'being credible in many things' - Lunars can accomplish neither now, but should be able to reasonably accomplish the first without crippling themselves.
I would not call a psych professor with a doctorate a 'generalist' just because he can teach *and* do - the two facets of his abilities are self-supporting. So, too, should a Lunar that focuses on changing his shape have more, not less, options in using that shapechanging to affect both combat and noncombat. As is, a Lunar shapechanger is either good at combat, and therefore devalues all other aspects of shapechanging, or good at all other aspects, and subpar in combat. ~ BerserkSeraph

I don't say this to challenge, or because I think what you are saying is not the case, Bill. I just don't get how Lunars aren't tougher than Solars. Their selection of Ox-Body forces them into choosing between large number of penalty levels. DBT is an easy road to high levels of soak through gifts and by judiciously increasing (in a reasonable case) or dumping every point you get (in an unreasonable case) into Stamina. The only things I can think of to measure toughness are health levels and soak, and apart from Adamant Skin Technique, Lunars seem to be able to match and do better than anything Solars can do in those two areas. At least, pre-Power Combat. I'm not quite sure how the PC changes to Solar Resistance changes that front. ~ Andrew02

Solars blow past Lunars in terms of raw soak once Power Combat's Charm changes are factored in - Spirit Strengthens the Skin turns any bashing soak you have into lethal, and bashing soak is dead easy to come by. Lunars can regenerate, which Solars cannot (in the canon Charm set), but Solars can avoid getting hit in the first place - you decide which works better for you. Solars also get the amazing ISoB, which meshes really really well with PC's SStS. Since it's never been debated by the devs that the Lunars and Sidereals can be somewhat stronger in their specific domains than Solars, I am at least changing the wording to "notably stronger than Solars". -- BillGarrett

Forgive me for waltzing in as a newbie, and on a dead conversation no less, but this struck me as I was searching the wiki for some Lunar ideas. While your example scenario does show how a lunar can be quite crafty and deceiving I fail to see how it supports a case for Lunar 'Illusionist' behaviour being of such quality that it needs to be printed in teh core book as an exemplar of activity. If I"m being obtuse allow me to cut it down a bit. A Solar can equal the deceits of the Lunar scenario presented above, and similarly match Lunar's in this sort of field. Meanwhile the core book references lunars as being masters of illusion and shapeshifting. Two items, and seemingly differentiating from a general 'ninja-identity-fu'. So far my easy hotfix for Lunar illsuions is a wealth of oral tradition of Celestial level sorcery spells used to craft images, and an ability to minorly wyld shape, or glamour shape. ~ SolVachel