A lot of people are unhappy with Exalted: the Lunars. While I'm less annoyed by it than many other people, I don't think it's without its issues. I'm mostly okay with the flavor and background, as long as one inteprets it loosely, but I do feel that there are mechanical issues that need to be addressed. Here are some possible ideas on changing things around, not all of which are mutually compatible.
Deadly Beastman Transformation is Necessary
DBT is basically mandatory for an effective Lunar character, who will be hampered by high experience costs all around, so a quick-and-dirty fix is to give it to them for free. All Lunars automatically receive levels of DBT equal to their Essence, and when their Essence goes up, so does their DBT.
Deadly Beastman Transformation is Wrong
DBT is not a charm. It is an entire separate mechanic that has been badly shoehorned into a charm. Had the Lunar book been produced later in the line, DBT would likely have had its own mechanics, not unlike Sidereal Astrology. Thus, I think DBT should be re-implemented as an independent, a-la-carte mechanic, something along the lines of:
Lunar Exalted may purchase additional dots of Attributes that are only accessible in their Beastman form. Dots of Strength and Stamina cost 4 XP each. Dots of Perception cost 6 XP. Dots of Dexterity cost 8 XP. A Lunar may not purchase more dots of Strength or Stamina than twice her Essence each, and may not purchase more dots of Dexterity or Perception than her Essence each. The total number of dots she has purchased in all four Attributes may not exceed three times her Essence.
Lunars may also purchase Gifts that are only accessible in their Beastman form. Each Gift costs 10 XP, and a Lunar may not have more Gifts than her permanent Essence. Gifts that replace a prerequisite Gift do not count against this limit. Gifts that just provide Attribute points may not be purchased under this system.
Lunars have a Tell rating equal to their permanent Essence. You may purchase a Gift to reduce this Tell rating by one; each purchase of this Gift counts against the total number of Gifts you can purchase. Higher Tell ratings make you easier to identify in some mechanically-rigorous way I have yet to work out. Appearance may work to reduce the Tell, to compensate for the fact that there are no Appearance charms. (Plus, it helps the Changing Moons be sneaky infiltrators, which is their schtick.)
All other Lunar charms are still in place, but their purchase price is reduced to something like Sidereal-level rates, or maybe even Solar-level (for an all-Lunar game).
Deadly Beastman Transformation is Obvious
People whine about having to take DBT to not die, and then being unable to shapechange for non-combat purposes due to having a blatant Tell. Change things so your Tell is not based on how many times you've taken DBT, but how long it's been since you last used it. Now, you can be both a raging ass-beater and a face-stealing skindancer, just not at the same time.
Or, maybe just make the Tell based on how long it's been since you last shapeshifted in any way. That way, if you wear a form for a long while, it becomes perfectly natural and undetectable. If you're constantly shifting, then your true self shows through.
Deadly Beastman Transformation 2.0
Putting this all together, I think that if I were to run a game with Lunars, I would do as follows:
All tattooed Lunars start with Finding the Spirit's Shape and Deadly Beastman Transformation in addition to eight charms of their choice, at least four of which must be from Caste Attributes.
Ignore the mechanics currently listed for Deadly Beastman Transformation. Instead, Lunar Exalted may purchase additional dots of Attributes that are only accessible in their Beastman form. Dots of Strength and Stamina cost 4 XP each. Dots of Perception cost 6 XP. Dots of Dexterity cost 8 XP. A Lunar may not purchase more dots of Strength or Stamina than twice her Essence each, and may not purchase more dots of Dexterity or Perception than her Essence each. The total number of dots she has purchased in all four Attributes may not exceed three times her Essence.
Lunars may also purchase Gifts that are only accessible in their Beastman form. Each Gift costs 10 XP, and a Lunar may not have more Gifts than her permanent Essence. Gifts that replace a prerequisite Gift do not count against this limit.
|Spider-Foot Climbing||is replaced by||Glue-Foot Climbing|
|Gift of Hands||is replaced by||Arm-Array|
|Terrible Beast Claws||is replaced by||Savage Moonsilver Talons|
|Resilience of Nature||is replaced by||Wound-Knitting Power|
|Fearsome Appearance||is replaced by||Terrifying Bestial Visage|
|Rugged Hide||is replaced by||Impenetrable Beast Armor|
|Poison Bite||is replaced by||Deadly Breath|
|Fluttering Wings||is replaced by||Soaring Pinions|
Horrifying Might, Enchanced Senses, and any other Gifts that only provide Attribute bonuses may not be purchased under this system. The prerequisite for Ghost Sight is having purchased at least two dots of Perception in Deadly Beastman Form.
Lunars have a new trait, Hide, which starts at zero. It increases automatically after spending a given period of time without changing shape. Whenever a Lunar changes shape, her Hide is reduced by one, to a minimum of zero.
|If your Hide is:||It increases after:|
A Lunar's Hide may not exceed her Permanent Essence.
Lunars have another new trait, Skin, which is simply the Lunar's Appearance + Hide - (The Number of Gifts the Lunar has Purchased). It is used as a difficulty to detect the Tell.
Whenever a character meets a Lunar in one of her True Forms, he may make a reflexive Perception+Awareness roll with a difficulty of the Lunar's Skin in order to perceive the Tell. If this difficulty is zero or less, detection is automatic.
Whenever a character meets a shapechanged Lunar and has reason to regard her suspiciously, he may make a Wits+Awareness roll with a difficulty of the Lunar's Skin+2 in order to detect the Lunar's Tell. If the character is already familiar with the Lunar's Tell, then the difficulty is only the Lunar's Skin. Again, if this difficulty is zero or less, detection is automatic.
Masking the Brilliant Form now has the effect of making the Lunar's Hide equal to her Permanent Essence while it is active. Her Hide returns to its prior value after the charm's effects expire.
All other Lunar Charms are unchanged, but their purchase price is reduced to 12 XP for unfavored Charms and 10 XP for favored Charms.
TygerTyger asks: I like the basic idea, but why are Hide and Skin two separate Traits? Near as I can tell, the only use for Hide is calculating Skin. Wouldn't it be easier to just roll them up in one single Trait with a value of Appearance - (Number of Gifts), plus a bonus from the duration table?
It's easiest to keep Hide as a separate trait, since the time for it to change is directly dependent on its current value. Hide isn't just the time since you last shifted; that would be equivalent to dropping it to zero when you shift instead of just by one. As it stands, if you've been stable for a while and need to change, you only damage your cover slightly, though it'll take longer to get that one point back the more hidden you are. Keeping track of this value as a differential from a difference whose end value is stored would be much harder for players to deal with. Skin could be dropped, and in my first draft I didn't use it, but referring to the Lunar's Appearance + Hide - (The Number of Gifts the Lunar has Purchased) in three different places made the writing more cumbersome and made it harder for the reader to notice that this is the same sum. I modularized it; think of Skin as a simple preprocessor macro, like how you'd jot down your character's Dexterity+Melee+Attack Bonus for convenience's sake, even though you could easily recompute it at any time.
While I'm talking about it, it occurred to me that using the number of Gifts as a replacement for the number of times you've taken DBT is something of a holdover from an earlier iteration of this idea where you could take non-stacking Tell-reducing Gifts, which was inelegant. My thinking is that Gifts are the really crazy stuff DBT lets you do, such as heal in seconds, but huge numbers of raw dots is pretty good too, and maybe you should be penalized for them too. While inelegant, I could factor in the number of dots you have, by replacing (The Number of Gifts the Lunar has Purchased) with (1/10th the XP spent on DBT Attributes and Gifts, rounded down). Alternately, one could decide that merely being powerful in general makes a Lunar's Tell more prominent, and replace it with Permanent Essence. That would make it so that even if you're powerful, as long as you keep your Appearance up and don't shift, you can fade your Tell, and it's convenient that Masking the Brilliant Form completely cancels out your Essence, leaving you with Appearance as the difficulty to detect you. I'm leaning more and more towards this last option…