Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why Changeling: The Lost is my favorite nWoD Game

The title and subject of this post makes me feel like I'm writing a corny grade school essay, but I really do love Changeling, and would like to share the many reasons why. I should say though that I don't dislike a single World of Darkness game. 

The True Fae are horrifying. 
    To paraphrase one of the Changeling books: In their realms, the True Faes' desires overrides the laws of nature. They're often hyper-intelligent, but sometimes in ways that humanity wouldn't recognize. They have no real compassion for mortals. They can alter a person's body in anyway that pleases them: distorting their very being into whatever their whims dictate. The fact that they are both alien, yet somehow understandable is scary. They can look like us, talk like us, but from there it's entirely chaotic. 

Robust Character Creation: 
 There are six basic Seemings (character race) and a million more specific Kiths (sub-races) that players can chose to be. In addition, players can combine seemings or kiths until they have a character concept they want to play. This matches the Chaotic nature of Faerie very well, and allows players to create nearly any Fae-being they can imagine. Before this, the main WoD books were very 5x5 (5 clans, 5 covenants for V:tR, same for Werewolf, Mage). Instead the Changeling writers made as many character types as made sense. I've run a few Changeling chronicles now, and a few players have duel-kithed or took duel-seemings, and the level of individuality felt by this was greatly appreciated. 

The World:
Changelings are able to go into all of these settings: The Mortal World, Arcadia (Faerie), The Hedge, and Dreams. This allows for many different kinds of chronicles to be run: from exploration games (Hedge, Arcadia), Protecting those you love (Dreams, Mortal World), Court Based Politics games (Mortal World, Hedge), epic games of vengeance and rescue (Arcadia, Hedge), and so on. 

A straw man has taken over your old life - works your old job, plays with your children, and sleeps with your wife. Fetches can have great and terrible powers, or be weak. They are often antagonists, but can also be made into allies against the True Fae. They offer an interesting and personal being to act against or with you no matter what kind of chronicle you are in. 

Contracts & Pledges: 
I group these together because they're both the magic of Changelings. I like magic that has a cool story behind it. The fae make pacts with abstract concepts: stone, mirrors, hearth, et cetera. Everything only works for the Fae because they've made these pacts. Nothing makes sense unless a deal has been worked out, and often these are done in the way that allows the Fae to best exploit their contract (catches exists in all contracts to allow the free use of these). Pledges are similar to these. You pledge to another particular being to perform a task or do something, and in return you are rewarded. If you fail, you are punished - by the Wyrd (the mystical, chaotic Fate of the Fae). Player characters can be exploited by pledges and player characters can exploit others by pledges. This offers interest story devices and role play opportunities. 

The Seasonal Courts: 
It's usually a good sign of a game when I don't know what I want to play. Changeling overwhelms me with too many good options. Many seemings/kiths fascinate me, and all the seasonal courts' goals make sense to me. I like that (ideally) power changes every season, that each season has its own rituals and festivals, and that each Court has unique contracts associated with it. 

Goblin Markets: 
 This technically could have gone with the other settings, but I'm making its own heading. At the Goblin Markets you can trade away your youth, memories, eye color, for any number of odd benefits from the strange and shrewd goblins. Whole stories could also be told about the market - deals going bad, a rare object showing up. 

There are other interesting elements to Changeling (entitlements, hedge beasts, goblin contracts), but I feel I've covered enough of the game. I'm a huge fan of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and I like that Changeling uses the same kind of Fae magic and malicious though gentlemanly fae beings as JS&MN. The game offers any number of thematic ways to play it, but I love the subtitle's suggestion best: A Game of Beautiful Madness. 


Anonymous said...

So, I have a question for you... well, a blather then a question...

I like Changeling, I thought it looked really neat got the book and read it and was like "Wow, this is cool... what the hell do I do with it?" So, what kind of game do you run with it? If you've run or been in one I'd love to hear a little about it... sorry is this is a big question but it really was one of those things where I just feel like I don't know what to do with it, but damn it seems neato keen if I could figure it out.

Zach L said...

Last game I ran in it lasted only maybe 3 or 4 sessions. Most of my co-gamers and the DM were very much gameist players as opposed to RP-centric people, so it was pretty straightforward -- we all broke free of the same Fae master at different times, but due to the nature of the Hedge all popped up together in the mortal world at the same time and place (go figure, right?). We were "rescued" by a fae-touched husband and wife team that gave us a place to stay, and then as repayment got us a gig working for the Summer Court.

There was a fair bit of Court Intrigue (our first mission was finding out where one of the higher-ups in the Winter Court had disappeared to), but mostly it was standard WoD run missions, discover evil, smoted da evil, etc. etc.

A fun aside, though -- while in the hedge, we got kidnapped (all of us, yes) by a massive Ogre guy. After an insanely tough battle involving lots of trickery and powers and use of scenery, we killed him, took his badge, and fled.

Of course, the Ogre was actually a dumb border guard between the Hedge and the Mortal world working on the side of the Summer Court. whoops! By taking his medal, we were forced to take on his position as border guard. It was looking to be fun, but the DM lost interest after that and that was the last game we played.

Anonymous said...

I have yet to find a group of people interested in playing the Changeling game, but I agree that this is White Wolf's best creation ever. I loved the first incarnation and just love the update.

I definitely believe that this genre is more role play centric than roll playing. I've used these books for many different games that i have run and do run.

Jack said...


I've run mostly political-intrigue/mystery games. In one game the players' motley was the official detectives of the freehold. In another they had a patron who was "respected" in the Spring court. Both of my chronicles were very societal, and I regret downplaying the magic and madness of the fae to a large degree. The game is pretty open ended on what you can do, but you lack the sacred duty of werewolves. Other than the societal-focused mystery/politics games I've run I think the setting is great for hedge based horror, stories of stolen identity (with fetches), vengeance, or returning to Arcadia for some epic task: tricking the true fae out of their title and power, rescuing a loved one still trapped there. Fun stuff.

zach l,
I like the set up of mistakenly killing the guy and having to take over his job. Who'd you play that with?

I'm sorry to say I never played the original Changeling, though Dark Ages: Fae looks amazing form the little I've read. I'd really like to see more historical setting games in nWoD. I was very happy with Requiem for Rome. I think I've said this before on the blog, but I believe RfR to be superior to a modern nights game. Sorry, irrelevant: I agree with you it is definitely much more of a role play game than roll play.

Stephen said...

Any chance you know of a good site to check out or have perhaps written something yourself on tips for a first time ST running a changeling game?

Chris Pond said...

Here is our current campaign:

It might give you some insight into a good campaign...