Published on November 5th, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen1
Guide to the World of Darkness, Part Six (Changeling)
The two versions of changeling seem very different on the surface, and many feel that they share little in common. Some new World of Darkness games get this said about them as criticism (Mage) and others in praise (Geist), but ultimately each game has to stand on their own merits, not as successors to some legacy that must be upheld.
I think both succeed at what they were intended to do, though I like the intent behind The Lost more than The Dreaming. Tell me your thoughts on Changeling the Dreaming and Changeling the Lost in the comments or on twitter!
Changeling: the Dreaming
Main Conflict: Commoner Fae vs Noble Fae, Changelings vs Banality
The Pitch: Once the lands were filled with dreams- hopes and fears alike. The Fae live on these dreams and thrived before the age of reason. With the wide spread acceptance of logic, people began losing faith in the old tales and stopped being inspired by ancient dreams. The noble Fae withdrew to the Dreaming, while the commoners diminished and eventually found a way to slip their souls into the bodies of human children, becoming Changelings.
I enjoyed the commoner/noble split in the game, and I feel like it’s the most interesting conflict in the setting. While Vampire has a relatable social conflict (Anarchs vs Elders) that conflict is mostly about adolescence versus adulthood. Changeling is much more political and introduces an element of anti-aristocracy that contrasts nicely with the ideas we have about “The Gentry”, a common name for faeries.
Even though the political conflict is less about children vs their parents, the mood of the game is all about loss of innocence and wonder. The fae are harmed by banality, boredom, stasis, structure. The modern, corporate world is anathema to the children of dreams and hopes- this is a mood a lot of us can relate to.
Modern fantasy is a niche that I feel there is a real need for in the RPG scene, and it isn’t normally filled. Changeling was important during its time because it gave people a chance to play the fantastical while still being rooted to the modern setting. This is something that Dreaming does that Lost definitely does not.
The art in the core book is of a lot higher quality than a lot of other World of Darkness books. In the second edition the book is full color, and the art takes use of that. Illustrations from DiTerrlizi (Planescape, Magic: the Gathering) and Rebecca Guay (Magic: the Gathering) graced the interior and exterior of the line, which is a huge bonus to me.
C:tD is basically “Otherkin: the RPG”, something that doesn’t sit well for many netizens that are familiar with that sub-culture. As far as I’m aware, Changeling the Dreaming was written before any real attention was given to the Otherkin community so any similarities are un-intentional. That said, it’s kind of weird to think that there are people who really believe that they are elves or kelpies who play this game.
Classic WoD games are often fairly criticized for being anti-modernist, and Dreaming is one of the stronger cases in that argument. Changelings start dying with the advent of logical thought and the scientific method, after the Renaissance but not during the height of Rome, Greece, Persia or China? Modernism is said to be the cause of banality, but the monotony of peasant life in the Middle Ages wasn’t better than the monotony of modern corporate life in any measurable way.
The archetypes of the characters were very biased towards Celtic/Irish superstitions, with few references to other beings. The character choices were restricted to a euro-centric collection, and there was no written system for making a character that was more customized or from a different cultural tradition, which seems like an unfortunate design decision.
Dark Ages: Fae– Part of the Dark Ages reboot that happened during the Revised edition, this book changed the premise from otherkin style reincarnations to that of True Fae who were beginning to fade.
Changeling: the Lost
In my opinion, Changeling the Lost ended up doing two things right that made it successful, even if considering it a successor game: It brought the Changeling line back to a tone of horror more in line with the rest of the WoD, and it broadened the scope of that it meant to be a Changeling. This meant that there were many new ways to play the game, but if you want to play something like Dreaming that’s okay too.
Main Conflict: Changelings vs True Fae, Changelings vs PTSD
The Pitch: You were mostly normal once. You probably had a job, a partner, a life- until you were taken. Some are seduced away by sex, others by greed or wanderlust- while some are just stolen away. Too bad you were only interesting for a short time to the fickle powers that took you, and they re-purposed you into a slave. The abuse and neglect that you suffered from your masters, coupled with the strange energies of their lands, permanently changed you physically and spiritually.
Finally you escaped, barely, only to find that your time in that land passed much differently for you than the rest of the world. Some come back after having spent one horrible month away only to find they’ve been gone for years, others live to old age in confinement and come back mere hours after they left. Most of the time, no one missed you. In your place the Fae left a simulacrum to live our your monotonous life in the most nondescript way possible
Changeling the Lost is one of the only World of Darkness games whose premise is actually scary to me. As someone born in the 80s, the fear of abduction by strangers was ingrained into me at a young age. On top of that, the fear that even once you escape you will be dragged back by people you used to trust hits a chord as well.
The Lost also focuses on the aftermath of abuse, PTSD and recovering from damaging emotional trauma. It can be scary and cathartic and it explores themes that are truly adult, not “adult”, which is refreshing. Changeling the Lost is one of the more actually mature premises for a game, that nonetheless deals with very child-like fears.
There are more character options in Lost than in any other new World of Darkness game. There are dozens of character types and ways to customize them, letting you theme yourself after your captor: anything from a djinn to a sidhe to an alien. By making the character types more archetypal, it also made it easier to theme your game to a specific culture or to get rid of historical/cultural references altogether.
The stories and scenarios presented in the core book are widely varied and run a wide range of options. While I prefer a gritty, horror feeling (like the movie They) others may prefer a more lighthearted Gaiman approach (like Neverwhere). The Lost allows for either and anything in between, and the system is flexible enough to allow for these differences.
Victorian Lost– The only new World of Darkness line (besides Vampire) to get a historical sub line, Changeling’s Victorian setting does not disappoint. It makes sense to have a faerie based campaign happen in the Victorian era, especially when so much of the literary influences on the game come from sources like Gaiman, who were inspired by the era. This is a great excuse to actually have only irish/gaelic creatures, much like The Dreaming.
Some of the setting elements that make The Lost such a great stand-alone game also make it harder to integrate with the other World of Darkness games. While games like Geist have no problem integrating with the rest of the WoD cosmology, for some reason the nature of the True Fae was left ambiguous and the themes of Changeling make working with other supernaturals sketchy at best.
Autumn Nightmares– the first supplement to be introduced for Changeling, this gives much more information about The Lost’s enemies and their agents. It includes a lot of great ideas for fetches (the creature the Fae leave in your place when they take you away) as well as ways to torment your player characters with other Changelings that work for the Fae, known as Privateers.
Winter Masques– If you didn’t think that Changeling had enough character creations options already then this book will definitely take care of that for you. It includes 41 new character types, 6 new factions as well as new ways to customize your character to be exactly what you want.
Rites of Spring– The rules and information on dream shaping are woefully under-explained in the core book, but Rites fleshes this out completely. It also has tons of info on other aspects of changeling magic, their illusions and contracts. There is also a lot of discussion about themes in The Lost and how to represent different moods in your stories.