Changeling: The Dreaming, 2nd Edition

“A Storytelling Game of Modern Fantasy ”

Copyright 1995, White Wolf

Design by: Mark Rein·Hagen, Sam Chupp, Ian Lemke, with Joshua Gabriel Timbrook
Written by: Deirdre Brooks, Phil Brucato, Jackie Cassada, Sam Chupp, Richard Dansky, Jennifer Hartshorn, Robert Hatch, Ian Lemke, Robert Martin, Nicky Rea, Mark Rein·Hagen, Kathleen Ryan

Changeling

Softcover rulebook, 8 1/2 by 11 inches, 293 pages.

Additional materials in the collection:

Nobles: The Shining Host. White Wolf, 1995.
Players Guide. White Wolf, 1996.
The Shadow Court. White Wolf, 1997.

Kithbook: Trolls (Kithbook 1). White Wolf, 1996.
Kithbook: Sluagh (Kithbook 2). White Wolf, 1997.
Kithbook: Redcaps (Kithbook 6). White Wolf, 1999.
Kithbook: Eshu (Kithbook 7). White Wolf, 2001.

The Autumn People. White Wolf, 1995.
Kingdom of Willows. White Wolf, 1998.
Noblesse Oblige: The Book of Houses. White Wolf, 1998.
Pour L'Amour et Liberte: The Book of Houses 2. White Wolf, 1999.
War in Concordia: The Shattered Dream. White Wolf, 1999.

All materials donated to the museum by Lisa Padol.

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The least dark of the World of Darkness second edition offerings, Changeling explored the lives of those who live in two worlds: the reality of the World of Darkness, and the Dreaming, the realm of faery. Faeries (who refer to themselves as the Kithain) come from Arcadia, a distant alternate reality. The paths between Earth and Arcadia are all lost save a few hidden ones, but in the past, Kithain from Arcadia could come and go as they pleased. Those who remained after the two worlds were barred from each other are exiles. New arrivals to the Dreaming are changelings: faerie beings created from myths and stories, yet born of mortal parents, who discover their fae heritage at some point during their life.

The Dreaming sits atop and within conventional reality, and the Kithain can perceive both at once. Mortals may see an emo boy tying his shoe and then emphatically gesturing to a goth girl at the bus stop, but to those who can see the Dreaming, it is a Sluagh is offering tribute of silken wall hangings to a Sidhe Lady. Most artifacts in the Dreaming only exist in the Dreaming; such items are called chimera. Mortals can neither see nor be affected by chimera, while a Kithain can interact with them fully so long as he or she remains in The Dreaming. If need be, Kithain can escape chimerical monsters or weapons by retreating to their mortal form, or they may be driven to it by chimerical injury.

The Kithain seek Glamour. Glamour is the spiritual force that sustains their lives and the Dreaming, its ultimate source and nature mysterious. However, the Kithain know that humans produce some Glamour through art and imagination. The fae seek to harvest the Glamour. This can be done gently by encouraging artists and interacting with the results of their art, or it can be done harshly, ripping it from unsuspecting humans. Too much of this exploitation damages the mortal's ability to create more Glamour.

The threat to the Kithain is the opposite of Glamour, called Banality. Where the former brings life and delight to the fae, Banality is a deadly ailment, accumulating in their beings like poison. Should Banality overwhelm them, they become mere mortals, difficult or impossible to reawaken to The Dreaming. The ultimate source of Banality is unknown, but as humanity loses its desire or even ability to imagine and dream, Banality grows. The portents indicate that Banality will grow to the point where the Kithain are utterly extinguished, and that time grows ever nearer.

Beings of impulse and emotion, the Kithain are split many ways into conflicting factions, and these factions do not agree on most issues. The High King David in Tara-Nar has made great strides in quelling some of the conflicts, but the Kithain are still far more divided than united. The noble Sidhe look down their noses at the common fae, while the commoners, who had managed to rule themselves effectively enough during the first long separation from Arcadia, resist the efforts of the Sidhe nobles to force them back into obedience and serfdom. The noble houses feud with each other, and of course, there is ever the great division between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, although this has largely been papered over.

Characters in Changeline: the Dreaming:

Character creation followed the same process as the rest of the Storyteller System of games. As usual, the players' vision of the character was strongly defined by their choices in the Conceptualization Phase, where players selected their character's race and affinities. There were nine main races, or Kith: Boggans, who value the work of their hands; Eshu, the enigmatic wanderers; Nockers, the master artificers of metal and machines; Pookas, tricksters who can never speak wholly truthfully; murderous Redcaps; pleasure-seeking Satyrs; noble Sidhe; waifish, outcast Sluagh; or the mighty Trolls. In addition to their Kith, characters also aligned their characters with the Seelie or Unseelie Courts. This, in turn, limited one's choice of Legacy, which described the character's general temperment and the means by which he or she recovered spent Willpower points. Characters needed a Seeming, their mortal appearance, which determined their age, a function of when they first became aware of their changeling nature. A Changeling's age was either Childing, Wilding, or Grump, and these broad age groupings were yet another influence on character personality. If affiliated with a noble house, the character had to choose which of the five noble houses they belonged to. Kithain also had their Oathcircle, their "family," so to speak. The Oathcircle was the mechanical motivation for characters of different Kith and backgrounds to live and work together.

Thus, a character's personality would be the result of the complicated interaction between four or five different typologies: Kith, Court, Legacy, Seeming, and possibly their House as well.

Attributes and Skills were chosen as in all of the other World of Darkness games. Advantages in Changeling consisted of background traits and magical abilities. Backgrounds included contacts, possession of a chimerical item, possession of a holding (something like a fief), a noble title, a retinue, and so forth.

The Finishing Touches stage mainly involves calculated scores for Glamour, Willpower, and Banality, plus the freebie points to boost abilities. Glamour, Willpower, and Banality were collectively referred to as Tempers, and Tempers were pools that tracked a character's state.

Glamour was generally spent on magical effects (see below), and was recovered through harvesting from mortals, which required roleplaying, either to cultivate artists and dreamers to be harvested gently, or to simply find these mortals and forcibly extract Glamour from them quickly. Glamour might also be obtained by spending a night in a Kithain freehold, a sort of faery castle.

Willpower was used to enhance rolls (a point of Willpower could be spent to add a success to any roll) or to resist the character's instincts, if the Storyteller forced character actions. Willpower was regained according to the character's Legacy, selected at character creation. This generally meant enacting a behavior relevant to the character's selected personality type: an "orchid" might regain Willpower by escaping from a dangerous situation with their innocence intact, while a "paladin" needed to overcome a challenge, and a "rogue" gained Willpower by succeeding without deserving to.

The key Temper to the game was Banality, marking the character's connection to The Dreaming. Accumulating Banality meant your character was drifting away from their Kithain heritage. Temporary Banality points were earned through damaging the Dreaming (resisting spells, destroying chimera, forcing other Kithain into their mortal form), or by Storyteller fiat, if they felt the character was "being too mundane." Easy to earn, but hard to erase: a character either spent newly earned Glamour points to reduce temporary Banality on a point for point basis, or they had to engage in difficult quests to reduce permanent Banality. If a character had more Banality than Glamour at the end of a story, that meant the character was forced into mortal form and began to forget their Changeling nature.

 

Magic

The supernatural powers wielded by the Kithain were called cantrips. Cantrips had three components: Art, Target, and Bunk. The Art referred to the type of effect desired, Target was obvious, and Bunk referred to the action required by the character to complete the cantrip. Art and Target were purchased at character creation. There were six Arts (Chicanery, the art of mental trickery; Legerdemain, the art of illusion; Primal, the art of earth and nature; Soothsay, the art of prediction; Sovereign, the art of rulership used by nobles to subdue their rowdy subjects; and Wayfare, the art of travel) and each Art had five specific effects, ranked from one to five dots, with the more powerful effects at the higher levels. Having more dots in an Art meant the character had both greater variety and power to command.

There were five different Realms for Targets: Actor, Fae, Nature, Prop, and Scene, and like the Arts, characters invested one to five dots in each Realm. More dots meant more choices in that Realm, and generally, meant having better range for the cantrip, or less personal connection to the target.

Bunks were rated for their difficulty and the number of successes they produced. (These were not perfectly correlated.) In general, the harder Bunks were trickier to perform: a one dot Bunk might be to don spotless white gloves, or draw a rune on your forehead. Complex Bunks might involve tracing a symbol in the caster's blood on the target, or smashing a valuable object behind you.

Mortals resisted Cantrips using their Banality score; Kithain could also do this, but they gained a point of temporary Banality if they did so.

The cantrip system was designed to be played with cards. Players had a hand of Art and Target cards corresponding to what their characters knew, and they selected the cards to use. A Bunk card was drawn at random from the Bunk deck, and if the character executed the Bunk requirement, the cantrip had as many successes as the Bunk card allowed. (Players could spend a point of their character's Glamour to draw a second Bunk card to increase the power of the spell.) After the cantrip was executed, players picked up their cards and discarded one. They could choose to keep their Bunk so they knew the casting requirement for a future cantrip, which meant losing some Art or Target ability for a session, or they could keep their magical knowledge and discard their Bunk, drawing randomly for the next cantrip. The game says cantrips do not work exactly the same each time: players were not allowed to produce the same cantrip using the same Bunk.

A deck of cards could be purchased separately, or players could make their own, using the blank card template at the back of the book.

Combat

Combat followed the basic Storyteller system. Damage caused by chimera (animals or weapons) worked the same way on a Kithain as in the basic Storyteller system, except a death caused by chimerical damage resulted in a coma, the duration in proportion to how much Banality the character had accumulated. There was no system for Aggravated damage, but damage from a cold iron weapon (defined as unalloyed iron) meant losing a point of Glamour as well, and being killed by cold iron meant the permanent destruction of that character's fae identity.

Living as Kithain

The finishing touches to the game involved Kithain mental states that they might roleplay through. One is insanity (called "Bedlam"). Changeling: The Dreaming says Kithain are susceptible to bedlam because of the difficulties of dealing with a constantly shifting reality. There were no mechanics: the Storyteller was instructed to simply decide when a character went mad, although Storytellers were encouraged to give warning signs to the players through messing with their character's perceptions at first. Should a Storyteller decide to push bedlam further, then the character was assigned delusions to roleplay. Healing bedlam was tricky, requiring either retreating to Banality at the low levels, to a combination of magical and Banal healing at the middle levels, to the intervention of powerful magical artifacts for full bedlam.

The other life choices were more in the players' control. Love is taken quite seriously by the Kithain, as the expression of their highest creative art. There were rules for Courtly Love and True Love, but no mechanics. This was a life event that required role playing. Players may also take various Oaths: to nobles, to each other, to their loves, and these had a mechanical effect, although it was up to the players whether they chose to take Oaths or not.

Of course, Kithan must have opponents. These ranged from the chimerical (notes on chimerical monsters are provided) to the Autumn People, who desire to learn the secrets of the Kithain and the Dreaming, or alternately, to cure them of their "delusions" and make them forever mortals.

The sample adventure included, Toys will be Toys, was a traditional "recover the MacGuffin," set in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, which isn't a bad idea for a locale to run a Chronicle. While relatively simple, it was less railroading than the sample adventure in Vampire: the Masquerade, and included some delightful touches of whimsy.

Summary

From what we hear, Changeling: The Dreaming was a very popular game in the WoD family. This may be due to the freedom granted to players relative to the other games of the line: most had characters in thrall one way or another to more powerful forces within their group. Such structures in C:tD were much weaker to begin with, and the Kithain's chaotic nature and dislike of authority further weakened the political strictures. C:tD also provided much more freedom for characters to ignore the consistent gloom of the other games. Sure, Banality was coming, but the Kithain had no overall strategy to attack it, no personification of the enemy, no sense that Banality was a force that would come directly after individuals who defied it. Changelings were not required to either face monsters or be monsters. Chronicles could be extended episodes of light whimsy, with traditional fantasy elements of quests, princesses, nobility, and magic. The random nature of the Bunks in the magic system provided enough uncertainty to make cantrips fun to play. In this, C:tD emulated its own setting, based in the World of Darkness, but not necessarily being of it, using the rules to play lightly around the grim metasetting of the other books.

 

—RAD
June 13, 2012

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