Alternate Changeling: Lucidity

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Independent of the setting changes I’d made for my update, the major rules change was the introduction of Lucidity. I’ve always thought Banality is a very strange decision for the Changeling system: AFAIK, it’s the only character sheet trait in the WoD that you don’t want to go up. So my goal was to revise and replace the systems related to Banality to introduce a mechanic that could be much more analogous to Glamour and Willpower.

This has follow-on effects on several other systems.

Lucidity and Glamour

Changelings are two-fold entities, belonging to both the lands of dreams and of waking. As such, their abilities are determined by two contradictory traits. Glamour measures the power of their dreams: the amount of Dreaming energy that can be brought to bear to fuel the magic of the fae. Lucidity measures the strength of their waking minds: the amount of focus that can be brought to mortal pursuits. Without Glamour, a changeling would lose her fae self and become fully awake and mortal. Without Lucidity, a changeling would lose her mortal side, and her fae soul would spiral off into the Dreaming with no anchor on the mortal world. Yet changelings bring synergy to their two halves, the whole becoming greater than its parts.

By being partially wakeful, changelings possess a focus that cannot be achieved by creatures purely of the Dreaming. They can give the necessary attention to learning things, they can resist faerie magicks at need, and, perhaps most importantly, they can use mortal logic to transcend fae stereotypes and the force of narrative. True fae and chimera tend to act according to a theme and a script that drives their actions. A changeling is lucid enough to recognize this trend and to make plans to work around its limits.

By being partially asleep, changelings can reach a creativity that is not often seen among mortals. Overflowing with imagination, they can create beyond points where normal mortals would be burned out. This imagination gives them a spark of greatness that many mortals don’t understand, and which some fear, but which allows them to surpass mortals of great ability. A changeling is a composite being, half awake and half asleep, and made stronger for this fact.

Lucidity

Lucidity can be spent for the following tasks:

  • Fighting off Bedlam: One or more points of temporary Lucidity can be spent to restore sanity being chipped away by the Dreaming.
  • Resisting Fae Magic: A character can spend a point of Lucidity to subtract a success from an attacker’s arts roll, or to add a success to her resistance roll. Doing this too often might gain the character Banality.
  • Attention to Detail: A character can spend Lucidity like Willpower for a bonus success on any Perception-based roll because the waking mind is adept at noticing details that a dreamer might miss.

Lucidity can be recovered in the following ways

  • Natural Renewal: The character regains a point of Lucidity for every night of sleep in the waking world. This renewal does not happen in freeholds or the Dreaming.
  • Sobering Company: A character in the company of mundane but insightful individuals recovers one or more points of Lucidity per hour spent in conversation.
  • Force of Logic: A character at 0 temporary Lucidity can be talked back to reality by friends. Effectively, they must roll their Lucidity against her permanent Glamour, success restoring a point of Lucidity. Most mortals are assumed to have five Lucidity.

A character cannot use any abilities higher than her permanent Lucidity. Abilities can be bought as high as the character’s Lucidity rating (optionally, for more powerful changelings, characters with more than 5 Lucidity can transcend mortal limits to their abilities as another benefit of the hybrid souls).

A character that runs out of temporary Lucidity must roll permanent Lucidity against permanent Glamour (+1 to +4 difficulty in the Dreaming, depending on the depth). Failure on the roll indicates that the character has fallen fully asleep. She loses all access to abilities, forgets mortal commitments, and tends to act out stereotypical behavior for her kith as well as losing many inhibitions about proper behavior. She may slip into the Dreaming the first time the Mists become very low, and is in a lot of trouble should she already be in the Dreaming. This condition persists until at least one point of Lucidity is regained, possibly requiring the intervention of friends, at which point she returns to being half-awake. When in a lost one’s hold or when dealing with individuals already in Bedlam, the difficulty of the roll to resist this state may be increased.

Most mortals can be assumed to have Lucidity 5.

Other Uses for Glamour

Glamour can be spent to Inspire Creativity: The character may spend a point of Glamour to get an idea for an artistic creation (essentially +1 success to artistic rolls for each Glamour spent) or to get an idea/clue based on her current information as to where the plot of the story is headed, due to treating reality like a narrative.

A character cannot buy any fae Arts, Realms, or Redes to a level higher than her Glamour, though they are still normally capped at five.

Banality

Banality is the antithesis of dreams, representing the complete absence of creativity, hope, imagination, and fear. While it is not unusual for many mortals to build up a small amount of Banality when burned out, it is incredibly rare for anyone to have high levels of Banality for long periods.

Banality replaces temporary Lucidity, filling the Lucidity track from the bottom up. Points of Lucidity turned into Banality cannot be spent until the Banality fades. A changeling whose Banality exceeds Lucidity immediately loses all temporary Glamour, waking fully, and cannot recover Glamour until all Banality fades. Typically, one level of Banality is lost for every week in which the character got plenty of dream-filled sleep. Fae gain Banality by denial of dreams, permanently killing fae, dealings with very Banal individuals, and other methods (as per Changeling 20th).

All fae magicks have the target’s Banality in successes subtracted from their effect or are added as automatic successes to the target’s resistance roll (if applicable). They are automatic successes for the Mists to wipe the mortal’s mind.

(Any game systems that currently reference Banality can either use the revised Banality total, which will usually be lower, or some other dice pool as the storyteller thinks is appropriate.)

Bedlam

A less dangerous, but more prevalent, counterpart to Banality, Bedlam represents a changeling’s tendency to slide towards madness when not spending enough time in the real world.

Bedlam fills the Glamour track exactly as Banality fills the Lucidity track, and also makes these points unusable. Bedlam is a penalty for all of a changeling’s social and mental dice pools when dealing with mundane situations. It is acquired when a character spends extensive amounts of time in a freehold or the Dreaming without dealing with anything in the mundane world, usually at one level per week. In the Deep Dreaming or a lost one’s freehold, this increases to one point per day. Characters that have sworn the Oath of the Long Road typically do not gain Bedlam if they spend their time in pursuit of that quest.

One point of Lucidity turns a point of Bedlam back into a point of Glamour. A character whose Bedlam exceeds her permanent Glamour must spend any remaining Lucidity to buy it back down to her Glamour or less. If the character has more Bedlam than permanent Glamour and no temporary Lucidity, the character goes completely insane, driven by her court and kith, and is controlled by the storyteller until other characters can rescue her and return her to the Waking world.

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Alternate Changeling: The Fae Experience

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(See the previous two posts for background on this series.) This section is a little more rulesy, and describes the experience and perks of being a changeling.

Chimera

The entirety of the Dreaming is composed of chimera, though most is inanimate. Rocks, trees, metals, water, and more all seem entirely real when in the Dreaming but are simply figments of the imagination to the waking world. Animate chimera represent dreams of living things, and may resemble animals, people, or mythic creatures of all kinds. These animate chimera typically come into being for a brief period of time and disappear after the dreamers that created them move on to other dreams.

Some learn to manipulate their dreamers for continued existence while others learn, eventually, to tap the essence of the Dreaming itself. They can exist until slain by some other chimera or fae. Chimera typically form in the Waking world, soon fade into the Near Dreaming, and eventually migrate deeper into the Dreaming, finding areas and realms that best suit their temperaments.

Chimera are deeply based in the dream that created them. Even the sentient ones have a kind of tunnel vision. While they can think, discuss, and plan within the scope of their personal theme, they are easily outwitted and confused by taking actions that are not part of their existence. Spider chimera are baffled by prey that watches carefully to avoid their webs, hunting chimera will never think to burn a settlement’s crops, and so on.

Chimerical creatures also tend towards chaos, even when they are dreams of order, and lack the ability to devote genuine focus to things not “programmed into” their natures. As such, they are unable to learn abilities. Many learn the Dreamer’s Skill rede to compensate for this weakness, while others build their attributes to mythic levels.

Most chimera that are slain die just as a mundane creature would die, and leave behind a corpse that can be used as materials or which rots into the Dreaming. Sentient chimera, when slain, can expend a permanent Willpower to reform elsewhere in the Dreaming, which may or may not leave behind some of their corpse (depending on the chimera in question). Potent fae rituals can sometimes trap these chimera before they reform.

Chimera cannot buy Arts and Realms, but many old chimera, especially dragons, tend to develop unique redes that can simulate the magicks of the fae.

True Fae

The difference between true fae and sentient chimera is a hard one to judge. All true fae are at least partially humanoid in appearance, and all seem to have a somewhat broader focus than most chimera. Many point out the difference as one of creation, claiming that the Tuathans and Fomorians gave the first of the true fae some crucial spark of divinity that has been passed through their lines since the War of Trees.

Technically, the real difference is that true fae have two distinct advantages. The first is that they can develop Arts and Realms to enact magicks that chimera cannot perform without very unique Redes. The other is that they are intimately tied to humans. True fae worshiped by humans can regain Glamour, and they may become changelings to protect themselves from the detrimental effects of the Waking world. Some specialized Arts exist to possess a mortal without becoming a changeling, but these are very rare and little used.

True fae, like chimera, cannot buy Abilities and rarely have a Banality score, but can buy redes. If a true fae possesses and adult mortal, subsuming her identity, re-spend points spent on redes to buy abilities (likely ones known by the original mortal) and add a starting Banality score appropriate to seeming.

Possessing an unwilling or unaware mortal to become a changeling requires an extended, contested roll of the fae’s Glamour against a difficulty of the target’s Willpower. Each roll is a day of game time, requires the expenditure of a point of Glamour, and the fae needs one to ten successes (depending on how compatible the mortal’s personality is with her own) plus additional successes equal to the target’s Banality. The fae cannot recover Glamour or leave the presence of the mortal while this process is ongoing, and will fade back into the dreaming upon running out of Glamour. A fae trying to possess a differently temperamented, strong willed, and Banal mortal might wind up discorporating before achieving enough successes, and the process might be detected by clued-in individuals who might try to exorcise the fae.

Changelings

Changelings are true fae incarnated in mortal bodies, gaining strength and weakness from both. Changelings, protected by their mortal forms, are ideally suited to living in the Waking world, resisting many of the detrimental effects thereof.

Changelings that have not undergone the Changeling Way ritual eject their body’s soul on incarnation, possibly sending it deep into the Dreaming or onto reincarnation, keeping only mind and body. On death, their souls are lost into the Dreaming. Those that have undergone the Way bond to mortal souls and reincarnate on their body’s death. They do not roll to possess a body, but must bond with a soul that is either an infant or already similar in temperament. Typically, their soul remains dormant for a period, until their fae nature reasserts itself in the Chrysalis.

The Chrysalis

After incarnating in a new mortal, a changeling soul under the Way typically enters a period of dormancy similar to that experienced due to waking up due to chimerical death. This period can last many years as the fae and mortal souls integrate more fully with one another. Much of the fae’s old knowledge from previous lives is transferred in some intuitive way, which tends make children with fae souls extremely precocious. The mortal will typically understand that something is strange about her from the bonding onward, but will not usually realize exactly what it is.

Eventually, the character will experience some kind of traumatic circumstance that starts the Chrysalis. Possible events are: seeing another fae Wyrded, being Enchanted, puberty, the death of a family member, losing one’s virginity, or any other emotionally charged experience. Over the next few days or weeks, the fae soul will begin to assert itself and gather Glamour. Every night, the mortal will have very strange dreams. The character will typically accrue Glamour at the rate of one every number of days equal to the area’s average Banality (e.g., if local Banality is 7, the character gains one Glamour per week), but may absorb Glamour from other areas if it makes sense.

When the fae soul manages to gather enough Glamour to equal the mortal’s Banality, the sleeping mortal is surrounded by a corona of chimerical special effects, her fae mien develops, and her unconscious mind quickly replays all the former lives of her fae self (only some of which she will consciously remember). On waking, the character will now be a full changeling, and her personality and identity will be a composite of the two souls. If she had her dormant soul since birth the change will usually be incredibly minimal, while characters who acquired their soul more recently may be greatly changed. She is now in possession of all the traits bought by the fae soul on incarnation, and can begin to learn more.

The Chrysalis can be sensed by other fae creatures with a Perception + Kenning roll, at the difficulty of the local average Banality, up to [new changeling’s Glamour dots] miles away. This usually means that the new changeling will be surrounded by local curious chimera and possibly other changelings as well. Many changelings consider it their duty to track down and protect new changelings in dangerous areas and to bring them up to speed on any aspects of fae society they may have forgotten. Potent Soothsayers can often track down pre-Chrysalis mortals, and may take it upon themselves to accelerate their Chrysalis while they are in a safe location.

The amount of information the new changeling actually remembers about fae society depends on the Remembrance background. Most newly Chrysalised changelings will at least need some kind of basic refresher course from another changeling on various aspects of changeling existence, but will typically know intuitively when the tutor is being misleading about these facts.

Being a Changeling

The experience of being a changeling is very much like having just awakened from a dream. Changelings are fully in possession of rational mental faculties, but are also credulous and accepting of things learned and seen. Changelings are prone to following good ideas, no matter how nonsensical, and have a muted edge on their inhibitions. Many have dreamed of something that seemed like an excellent idea on first waking only to have its interest fade through the day. Many have dreamed interactions with friends and family that made them especially mean or friendly after waking. This is how a changeling exists all the time. The world at once makes perfect sense and is completely confusing. Ideas that are irrational are nevertheless the best course. Actions that would never be taken by a fully conscious and sane human are one step removed and thus can be pursued from a safe vantage point.

To outsiders, a changeling seems at once both insane and yet strangely in touch with the world. The following are other important factors of being a changeling and living in fae society:

Sense of Time

Each changeling is at least a little bit unstuck from the typical progression of time, the nobles even more so. While events occurring in the current time are easily followed, looking back on the past is confusing. Events precede causes, and linear narratives reshuffle themselves in the memory. It is hard to remember if the dream you dreamed last night was a continuation of another dream, or if the entire dream saga happened in one period of sleep. This is how fae feel about nearly everything in the past, having to really focus on the order of events. Characters with Glamour higher than Banality + Willpower are impossible to trust on the exactitudes of time, while those with higher Banality or Willpower are more able to put cause before effect.

However, since they are constantly confused about the progression of time anyway, fae are very hard to manipulate with temporal magicks. Altering a changeling’s sense of time requires extra successes equal to her Glamour, and a character can spend a point of temporary Glamour to ignore time acceleration or deceleration.

Aging’s Grip

Changelings age at the normal rate for mortals, but typically seem far more youthful than they actually are. Time spent in a freehold or in the Dreaming does not count for changelings or for mortals, and thus changelings active in the fae courts or in Dreaming quests may live far longer than they normally should.

Supernatural effects to divine the age of a changeling automatically fail. A careful changeling can live to be as physically old as any mortal, but many reincarnate before that time due to death on adventures or in order to avoid waking fully for extended periods.

Death’s Embrace

In general, full changelings do not really fear death. From the point of view of the dream, it is only partially real. From the logical point of view, it is only temporarily inconveniencing. Changelings may fear the abandonment of friends, family, and goals but they have no reason to fear the loss of their own life to anything but iron, for they will simply reincarnate. Those that have not undergone the Changeling Way are typically much more protective of their existence, but still often forget their mortality after centuries of living and due to the oddities of dreaming.

A changeling that is killed chimerically in the Waking world, a freehold, or the Near Dreaming loses all temporary Glamour, falls into a deep sleep, and fades into the Waking world if not there already. The sleeper cannot be awakened for at least a number of hours equal to her permanent Glamour, and will sleep a number of days equal to Glamour if not wakened by outside events. The fae soul becomes dormant, and she will not remember her fae nature until temporary Glamour is once more at full. The stronger the fae side, the worse a chimerical death. After this period, no further penalties apply.

The Bane of Iron

Many fae seem to think that Cold Iron is their bane because it represents the onslaught of Banality. This is only partly the truth. In most cases, iron harms changelings because mortals believe iron harms changelings. In all the tales of the fae for hundreds of years, iron has been their undoing, and so it is. This refers to any iron forged in the old way, cold or not, and excludes any alloys, such as steel. There are very rare creations of so-called “Cold Iron,” implements made by those without any creativity or joy in the craft whatsoever. These must be forged by a mortal with high Banality, and are especially harmful to the fae. Iron, cold or not, has several effects on changelings and other fae creatures.

Attempting to enter a location warded with iron, be it a wrought-iron fence or a horseshoe over the door, requires the expenditure of a point of Willpower (to force through) or taking on a point of Banality (to realize that there is no barrier). Cold Iron wards require two points spent or taken. This expenditure must be paid no matter how the character enters (even magically or by being thrown over the barrier) unless there are other unwarded entrances.  For example, a house with a horseshoe over the door could be entered by another door or by hacking through the wall, but a property surrounded by an iron fence would require the expenditure no matter how a fae creature tried to enter. A character that refuses to make the expenditure bounces off the entryway as if off of an invisible wall.

Touching an item of iron causes intense pain to fae creatures, imposing a -1 to a -5 penalty to all rolls (depending on how much of the character’s skin is touching the iron). Additionally, a character touching Cold Iron loses a point of temporary Glamour every turn of contact.

Being damaged by iron is terrible for the fae. All wounds dealt with iron weapons do an equal amount of chimerical aggravated damage. If the wielder of the iron weapon is attacking a chimera or true fae with no physical presence in the Waking world, the successes on the attack is the amount of damage dealt. A character hit with Cold Iron also loses a point of temporary Glamour. Any changeling, true fae, or chimera that dies chimerically from Cold Iron damage has her soul destroyed utterly. This effect does not occur from normal iron. Chimerical iron is incredibly rare, but has the same effects as normal iron except for the fact that it only does non-chimerical damage when Wyrded and is never Cold. Some believe that the rarity of Dreaming iron is because agents of the Fomorians have long been gathering and hoarding it.

Alternate Changeling: Recent History and Politics

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(See last week’s post for more details about this project.) One of the main reasons I wrote up all of this stuff is that my conception of the setting changed based on the LARP I ran in college. I’d had to make some major world decisions before War in Concordia came out, and I found myself still liking my decisions and wanting to roll them forward. So what follows is the “recent history” (circa 2001-2006) and politics I’d set up based on the fallout of that chronicle.

Dreams of Darker Days

Things were beginning to fracture amongst the courts of the fae. Recent events had seen an upswing in the number of fae hunters and the prophecies of darkness were growing daily. Rumors spoke of a Shadow Court working actively behind the scenes to sow chaos. The bizarre summer of 1999 saw nightmares spreading across the Dreaming and emerging from hidden realms. Only the strong hand of the low kings and the hope of David’s return brought hope to Concordia. And even this hope was shattered.

In early 2000, King Meilge fell to a bizarre Iron Plague that had struck the Kingdom of Willows. With the death of his fae soul, the anti-divinatory magicks protecting his role in David’s disappearance also fell. David, weakened from months of captivity without Glamour, was found and brought to be rejuvenated at the hold of Willow’s Shadow. Just as Seif the swordbearer was about to hand over Caliburn, David too fell in moments to the Iron Plague.

Caliburn embedded itself in the freehold and war began. The king’s sister, Morwen, his wife, Faerilyth, and his heir, Lenore, began to fight over who would be the new High Queen. Neither House Fiona nor the Red Branch would choose a side. Faerilyth was assassinated, and blame was spread across all the remaining sides. None could pull Caliburn from the stone of the Freehold, and so the war drew on.

The new millennium began and the unthinkable happened. Another wave of true fae emerged from the Dreaming, the silver road snapping and tearing behind them. Fergus, King of the Red Branch, emerged at Willow’s Shadow and drew Caliburn, proclaiming that Arcadia had fallen to the Fomorians and that now was the time to create a last bastion for the children of the Tuatha de Danaan on Earth. Most kingdoms on Earth were put under the control of a noble loyal to the Red Branch, and they began to prepare.

Now is the era of the darkest days.

The Factions of the Fae

In the new millennium the fae are divided into several governments, each with a different agenda. A character can often hold membership and title in as many factions as will accept her.

The United Kithain Empire

An alliance between the Western fae, the United Kithain Empire controls most of the Near Dreaming in Concordia, Albion, Caledonia, and the smaller fae monarchies of Europe and the near East. Essentially an organization of Celtic and Greco-Roman fae, the UKE is headed up by the Reformed Parliament of Dreams whose speaker is High King Fergus of Concordia.

The UKE was created in early 2001 when Fergus returned from Arcadia, and its stated goal is to protect kithain from the coming onslaught of the Fomorian hordes. To this effect, it offers membership and training to any kithain that swears an oath to stand against the Fomorians when the time comes, and also sponsors frequent trips to gather chimerical resources from the Dreaming. The largest faction of European changelings, many members are part of the UKE by default, as former membership in most kingdoms now means membership in the UKE.

A sketch of some of the more important areas of the UKE follows.

Concordia: United under the Red Branch and the Crystal Circle, the High Kingdom of Concordia controls most of the freeholds in North America. Queen Laurel of Northern Ice and Queen Mary Elizabeth of Grass have been admitted into the Crystal Circle, while Chief Greyhawk of the Burning Sun and Queen Mab of Apples have been sworn to the Red Branch. The Kingdom of Willows is currently governed by King Riordan Fellbane of the Fiona, a Red Branch knight that served as Fergus’ champion on his return to the Waking. The Kingdoms of White Sands, Pacifica, and the Feathered Snake are no longer under the rule of Concordia, while the Fiefs of Bright Paradise are only nominal allies in the best of times, as always.

With the snapping of the Silver Path, most American freeholds were reconnected to the Sideways Trods of the Nunnehi. Concordia’s lack of trod-based connections to the European dream has made quick transit to the rest of the UKE a matter of trusting in modern conveyances. Fergus is believed to make extensive use of airliners in his mortal seeming during his frequent trips to the parliament meetings at Stratford on Avon. Many others resort to tracking down masters of Wayfare to aid their transit.

The British Isles: The Isles remain a patchwork of fae governments, Britain alone divided into at least 16 small kingdoms. After pressure from Fergus, Lenore of House Dougal was placed as the High Queen of Britain. Her control, as a foreigner, is even more ceremonial than the mortal queen’s. In actuality, Britain has its own parliament, headed up by Edgar Whitestone the Lord Chancellor of Roses and King Ross of Dalriada.

The Rest of Europe: Many of the freeholds in Europe, including France, Spain, Germany, Scandinavia, Greece, Italy, Eastern Europe, and West Russia have joined the UKE on an individual basis, and they elect leaders to speak at the Parliament. There are few actual kingdoms of any real size in Europe, as long centuries of freehold possession and experimentation with different governmental styles left little homogeneity amongst the changelings of the continent. The returning nobles did not as easily press a feudal government on the local fae. They will still honor titles with the UKE, and expect their own titles to be honored, but do not often hold with the rigid hierarchy that is present in many freeholds of Britain and Concordia.

The Nation of Khemet: Citing long traditions of friendship, the mysterious rulers of the Egyptian freeholds have also joined the UKE, though none are quite certain of their true reasons for joining, as they have offered little knowledge of themselves.

The Independent Fae of Concordia

Created after the formation of the UKE, the stated agenda of the IFC is to create an organization for changelings that wish to concentrate on their own interests and problems in the Waking world, rather than being mobilized by doomsayers to fight in a war against Dreaming-based bogeymen. A large number of freeholds in Concordia have joined the IFC, as have many individuals without their own hold. The Kingdom of White Sands is the only large collection of freeholds under the IFC, and it is still ruled over by Queen Morganna.

The organizer of the IFC is Morwen ap Gwydion, sister of former High King David and major contender for the throne of Concordia before the return of Fergus. Many have accused her of forming the IFC out of sour grapes for losing the throne of Concordia, though she claims to have the interests of earth-bound fae in mind. The IFC, while having titles, is much more relaxed about the enforcement of protocols and etiquette than the UKE, and has attracted many converts for this fact alone.

The IFC spends most of its efforts promoting artistic endeavors, following imaginative trends, and making sure that its members have access to dreamers. It is believed that the Ranters faction also joined the IFC, but who can tell with such a mysterious group?

The Shadow Court

Finally announcing their existence after the formation of the UKE, the Shadow Court pulled out their members from that organization to found a government of their own. The Court has members and freeholds scattered throughout the world, but their primary power base is currently in the Kingdom of Pacifica where Queen Aeron has finally turned to their side.

The visible leaders of the Shadow Court are Count Vogon and Duke Dray, though many suspect that there are far more invisible leaders amongst the Court. Dray’s inclusion seems to indicate that the Beltaine Blade has decided to back the Shadow Court, as it follows a feudal structure far more rigid then the parliamentary urges of the UKE. Those who have dealt with the Court before tend to believe that some elaborate game is being played and this is just another move on the chess board.

The Shadow Court’s stated agenda is to accept members who want to avoid the senseless preparation for another War of Trees while also avoiding giving in to the near-anarchy of the IFC. Their real agenda is, unsurprisingly, hidden from all but their highest ranking members, but they have been accused of consorting with the Fomorians, inspiring Banality, consorting with the Wyrm, attempting to force the Long Winter, and even worse crimes. So far they have done nothing of those kinds that can be proven, and their worst seems to be fighting off kithain that try to take their freeholds.

House Fatae

In the past several years, the Norns of the Deep Dreaming seem to have been gathering members for their own faction. All members of the house gain the Bard’s Tongue and instruction in several powerful fae Arts. They are discouraged from belonging to other factions, but are allowed to lend their services on a case by case basis to those that require them. Fate-bound have traveled across the Waking world and the Dreaming with important messages for kithain leaders and commoners alike. None currently understand just what purpose the fates are building their resources to accomplish.

The Adhene Courts

Composed largely of the denizens of the Dreaming that were formerly members of the Fomorian armies, the adhene claim that they have no further part in the schemes of the Fomorians. They just wish to be left alone by the kithain and allowed to go about their businesses. They hold freeholds in out of the way places such as parts of Asia, Africa, and Australia, but have members scattered across the Waking. They have no unified agenda, other than mutual protection against those kithain that would hunt them for their former role in the War of Trees.

The Inanimate Empire

The only faction composed primarily of chimera, the Inanimate Empire is the government of the Inanimae. Each Inanimae is a sentient chimera of a particular natural formation or element, and many have developed unique and potent Redes. Some are even believed to have developed a way to form a mortal husk in which to Wyrd for long periods of time and to ignore the effects of dissolution. They do not hold freeholds as such, instead living in representations of their elements in the Dreaming. They send frequent envoys and diplomats to the other factions of the fae, with requests that seem to indicate an agenda unfathomable by flesh-bound minds.

The Nunnehi Nation

Now that the Nunnehi can again access the Higher Hunting Ground (their version of Arcadia within the Deep Dreaming) through the returned sideways trods, their numbers and power have been growing. Militant Nunnehi have been actively taking freeholds in Concordia through the sideways trods, while others have been seeking forgotten lore within their Deep Dreaming. They claim to receive guidance by the Phoenix itself, and have had an unpredictable relationship to most of the factions of the kithain in the Americas.

The Submarine Kingdoms

There is a vast political structure of chimera and piscine fae beneath the oceans of the Earth. Their envoys are rare, their politics as unfathomable as their depths, and they don’t seem to have any agenda that directly affects the land bound fae over the long term.

The Hsien

The fae of Asia are just as bizarre as their Dreaming. They largely ignore Western fae, though vacationers in the East have had run-ins both friendly and unfriendly with the natives. There have been some unhappy interactions between them and the Naraka and other adhene of the Orient, but their dealings do not impact most of the kithain.

Prodigals and Others

The term Prodigal refers to supernatural creatures that have a long history with the fae. It does not so much indicate that many changelings believe that these creatures were once fae, but means that many fae feel that these supernaturals have squandered the friendships and oaths that once bound them to the fae. Other supernaturals, as well as mortal hunters, are more recent occurrences and share no ancient ties to the fae, making them harder to affect with fae Arts.

Vampires

The undead are some of the only creatures that a changeling can really count on being constant from life to life. This can make them great friends or great enemies. Older vampires sometimes meet the same changeling in life after life, and can be a boon in recalling forgotten memories. However, some vampires find changeling blood addictive and others find them useful in their labyrinthine plots, making them dangerous. Perhaps the most harmful thing about long-term association with vampires, however, is the tendency for older undead to become set in their ways, jaded, and full of the ennui that leads to Banality. A creature that lives only out of habit is deeply depressing to the fae.

Werewolves and other Lycanthropes

Lycanthropes have had a long and turbulent history with the fae. Many honor the old ways, and even more remember ancient oaths between themselves and the fae. Others remember slights done to their ancestors. While the modern werecreatures and changelings share a common cause—the eradication of pointless stasis and corruptive decay—both sides have completely different opinions on how and why to pursue this quest.

Mages

The mortal magi have long been an enigma to the fae, one which many have sought to explore in great depth. While the traditional practitioners recall oaths with the fae, modern philosophies care nothing for the old bonds. Some mages versed in ancient lores attempt to manipulate the Dreaming itself, for good or for ill.

The Dead

Only one kith of fae is truly good at interacting with ghosts, and these often have long-running pacts with departed spirits. They note that recently ghosts have been in far shorter supply than times past, whispering of a great upheaval in their realm as well. Other changelings care little for the politics of those souls trapped without reincarnation, only dealing with those they cared for in life.

Hunters and Reckoners

There have long been individuals that hunted the fae for personal reasons, be it revenge, religion, or a Banal hatred of the unnatural. They are often purely mortal and easily dealt with by use of simple illusions and the Mists. Recently, however, new hunters have arisen with strange powers of their own. They seem to be able to shrug off fae magicks and are even partly resistant to the Mists themselves. Changelings that know of them avoid them at all costs.

The Reborn

Some of the undying of Khem have long known the fae of that region. New magicks have been brought to bear to create a breed of mummy that seems very similar to changelings in their serial immortality. For this reason, changelings that know of them have gone out of their way to make their acquaintances, sometimes endangering themselves as the chaos of the fae does not always mesh with the balance of Ma’at.

Demons

As yet, the changelings know nothing about new creatures from hell.

Alternate Changeling: Backstory

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Changeling: the Dreaming 20th Anniversary is out in PDF to the Kickstarter backers (and will probably be available soon to all). It is very good, and everyone should pick it up when they can. I think it’s the strongest 20th anniversary update of the ones I’ve seen so far (which, admittedly, is really just Mage with a light perusal of Vampire and Werewolf).

It’s good enough that it even has me thinking about whether I could actually try to run another Changeling chronicle. And that had me looking back at some of the old documentation I’d put together in college (when I’d made my own run at updating the material when no Revised version was forthcoming). To my surprise, I still approve of a lot of my decisions from fifteen or more years ago, so I thought I’d post some (lightly updated) sections from them.

This week is the summarized backstory I put together for new players. It takes some liberties with events (and references a few background elements that were highly relevant in the Changeling LARP I ran in college), and should prove a decent grounding for my own take on the setting (which is slightly idiosyncratic to the canon).

A History of the Fae

In the beginning were the first dreams. None know whether these were the dreams of the first humans, the dreams of the animals, the dreams of the spirits, or the dreams of Gaia herself. Nevertheless, these dreams spawned the Dreaming: a vast sprawling realm of ephemeral thoughts and transitory impressions.

Thence came the chimera: beings that mirrored the dreams of the sleepers, but which were merely figments, with little in the way of true form, following the script of the dreams that created them. These chimera were just another part, indistinguishable from the landscape of the Dreaming, save that they seemed animate because they represented dreams of moving things. In those days the realm of dreams was not far from the realm of waking, and the Mists were still very thin.

In time, reoccurring dreams crystallized into the first of the fae. Taking the themes of the Dreaming to heart, they represented the deepest thoughts of the dreamers. These first fae were Seelie and Unseelie, creation and destruction, hope and fear. Immediately, or perhaps later, these first fae became the Fomorians and the Tuathans. One represented the power of creation and the other the might of destruction. Yet which was which is far more arguable.

For unknown ages, they took turns governing over the dreams of mortals, being exalted as gods, becoming more and more powerful as their continued existence caused further dreams to come into being that included them.

Yet this could not continue forever.

The War of Trees

It is uncertain which side broke the cycle of Summer and Winter first. It is known that the Tuathans overthrew the Fomorians, but it is not clear whether this was a first strike or in response to former wrongs. Nevertheless, the Tuathans ruled unquestioned for longer than their share of time.

This event is retold in nearly every mythology. The Greek gods overthrew the Titans. The Judeo-Christian God and Angels cast the Fallen out of Heaven. The Norse Aesir defeated the Giants. Egypt’s Osiris defeated his brother Set. Finally, in the terms which have been most used, the Celtic Tuathans overthrew the Fomorians. Each culture places the event in a different era, and it is possible that the Dreaming, shaped and re-shaped by mortal dreams, replayed the event many times. In each instance, the Tuathans were victorious, reigning endlessly, or so they thought.

If the human conception of time can be trusted, iron began to be discovered near the time of the dark ages of Greece, at the end of the age of heroes. That this was an era surrounding the death of the Phoenix only placed more importance on the discovery. Fomorians that had long been re-building their power in the East noticed the importance of the metal ahead of their ancient foes. Humans ascribed great power to the metal that would not bend, and so it gained power from their dreams.

Lesser fae and chimera, those that had turned to the side of the Fomorians and which would later be called the Adhene, began to gather weapons of iron. When they struck the first blows of the Tessarakonta it was with an unbeatable edge. As iron proved its ability to slay the gods, it became even more potent when put towards that use.

The war continued through meaningless instances of time. Eventually, the Tuathans and their children recovered from the initial onslaught and began to bring weapons of their own to bear. Armies of fae and chimera clashed on the plains of the Dreaming and in the mortal world.

Many believe that the sympathies of the fall of Rome heralded the end of the war, for the participants in the fight were unable to truly deviate from the dreams of mortals: the fate of the gods would only be in question should the fate of the Roman Empire be at stake. Regardless, the final battle is remembered to have been on the Kureksarra plain, where the Red King of the Fomorians brought his final weapon, the Triumph Casque of Sorrows, to bear. Against impossible odds, he was defeated, or some say that he realized the folly of his actions and simply surrendered.

The Fomorians accepted the rites of binding, their followers were trapped behind the Silver Path, and the Tuathans also retreated to unknown locations. Some say that the Tuathans retired to Arcadia to heal their grievous wounds. Others say that the Tuathans were all slain during the War of Trees, and only their children survived to defeat the Fomorians. None can now remember the truth, but the war ended all the same.

An Era of Darkness

In the age that would later come to be known as the Dark Ages, the fae were without leaders and without power. The ranks of the fae nobility were growing as more mortals dreamed of what it would like to be a knight or lord, yet governing true fae turned out to be harder than the metaphor of herding cats. Without the power of the Tuathans or the Fomorians, nobles that had once been functionaries and priests now had to fend for themselves.

Adding to the trouble was the lack of enough sustenance to go around. The truly great hopes of mankind had dwindled to a mere desire to get by from day to day, with a distant dream of someday doing enough good deeds to avoid being damned to Hell. Were this not enough, the demonization of the fae by Holy Mother Rome made patronizing dreamers incredibly difficult. Many peasants still remembered the old ways, leaving out the remnants of food, placing small tokens at hidden alters, and other gestures, but gestures is all they were. The church grew in power and belief, and the mostly pagan fae felt the sting of lost worship.

Yet the end was not yet come. Gradually, the fall of Rome and the fallout of the War of Trees faded into memories. A new era of development started, and martial nations with the divine right of kings set forth to establish their dominance. Works of literature such as Beowulf and the Song of Roland found their dreams spreading across the face of Europe. Dreams which had once been comfortable with a king, priests, and a senate began to be re-molded into a feudal line. Urged to mimic the growing dreams of mortals, the fae began to arrange themselves in strict hierarchies beneath those claiming to have the Divine Right of the Tuathans to rule. Great works began to be possible, and the fae reached deep into the tales of mortals.

Yet things were soon to become much more complicated.

The Shattering and the Rebirth

The Black Death shook the very foundations of the Dreaming. Arriving from distant lands, it spread like an invisible spectre over the face of Europe. Some thought that it was another attack by the Fomorians, others thought that it was some weapon in the wars of the prodigals, while still others believed that it could only be a sign of the end of the world and the Second Coming.

Some say that the Shattering that followed was due to lack of dreams caused by the plague, but this is only partly true. Those beset by the plague were often struck with nightmares so potent that their dark Glamour could feed a faerie for days. The problem was not the lack of dreams, so much as the eventual lack of people to do the dreaming. Even the most conservative estimates tend to suspect that at least a third of the population of Europe died within only the briefest of spans. So many lives, ripped away in such a brief interval, began to tear away the building blocks of the Dreaming. Landscapes crumbled, the silver path stretched nearly to breaking, and everywhere the firchlis spun madly trying to cover up each rift left by a missing dream.

The fae did not know what to do in the face of the dilemma. Many thought that the Dreaming was finished while others thought that its heart was the only safe place left. A contingent formed; primarily composed of nobles, it contained many other fae as well. Some of them were abandoning the Earth like a sinking ship, others were hoping that, by reaching the gates of Arcadia, some magicks could be found that would halt the chaos, and some thought that they could find the Tuathans and beg them for help.

Later incarnations would claim that those left behind were cast off by the nobles and forced to their fate, but only in a few cases was this true. Those that stayed behind largely thought that retreat was a fool’s option, and so they remained.

Times grew very hard for the earthbound fae. As the last rath slammed shut behind those who fled so did the Mists rise to overpowering strength. Fae that had long depended on the constant revitalizing Glamour of the Dreaming realized that they would have to look for new sources or fade into nothingness. Some went into their freeholds and cocooned their last supply of Glamour around themselves, slowly becoming the mad lost ones. But this was not a course that many would choose for themselves.

Long had the fae known that they could incarnate themselves by replacing the souls of mortals, becoming a hybrid entity referred to as a changeling by European legends. This process, unfortunately, had the side effect of making the changeling as mortal as her host body. When the mortal body died, the soul disappeared into the Dreaming, possibly discorporating entirely. This did protect the fae soul, but it was a temporary protection at best.

The greatest remaining fae sorcerers began to work on the problem. Eventually, they reached a breakthrough, which they referred to simply as the Changeling Way. Vast sorceries empowered a series of oaths and simple rituals that could be disseminated amongst fae-kind. By undergoing the ritual, a faerie’s soul was reshaped and wounded, creating a rift that could be sealed by the compliment of a mortal soul. When such a faerie incarnated in a mortal, the soul was not replaced but incorporated. On the mortal’s death, the fae soul would be freed by the escaping mortal soul and could immediately seek out another mortal to bond with. By making themselves incomplete, the fae could continue to enjoy immortality.

The era of the Changelings began, as more and more of the remaining fae on earth underwent the Way. Protected from dissolution by their mortal hosts, they could pursue the sustenance of Glamour at their leisure. With the swiftly on-coming Renaissance, this process began to grow ever easier. Changelings across Europe began to steadily muse the growing mortal talents, increasing their efforts to works of true mastery. The Dreaming was still inaccessible to the changelings, but the dreams of mortals were overflowing with new ideas.

The Interregnum

The years passed and the world began to change. Having thrown off the yoke of the Catholic Church and of the other tenets of the status quo during the Renaissance, new ideas emerged almost daily. More and more discoveries were being made about the composition of the universe itself, discoveries that pointed out that it was, in fact, a mystery that could be solved.

The changelings were deeply conflicted about these changes. While the new dreams of progress and hopes of a better future inspired enormous amounts of Glamour, these dreams accompanied discoveries that more and more relegated the mystical and the religious to mere superstition and untruth. Some fae moved with the times, musing scientists and inventors across the world, while others continued to support the old ways, fading into the fringe groups that lived throughout the countryside. Great arguments were had over which was the best way, especially when the Industrial Revolution began to crush the dreams of its workers while spurring the dreams of those that fueled it.

These arguments became especially heated with the growth of a new force called Banality. Banality had existed in some form or another throughout human memory. Yet not until the modern era had it truly become a force of power against the fae. In the eyes of many workers at the new factories, a cold light of utter resignation burned. For them, there was nothing worth hoping for, no future to dream of, and nothing more that could be taken away to fear. Each day was the same, each minute was slavery to a whistle, and each night was a dreamless oblivion of rest for the body but not for the mind.

Amongst others, the case was growing as well. Some were left behind by progress, and became completely apathetic about anything as the world changed and left them behind. Some were jaded by the ease of production, and no longer bothered to dream, for they figured that the scientists would produce everything within a few years. Some became deeply nihilistic, following the new brand of philosophy that claimed that God was dead. Banality grew and the fae discovered a new enemy.

Yet there was hope as well. Gradually, the Mists of the Dreaming decreased to less impassable strengths. Changelings began to again be able to use potent arts of travel and dream to force their way through the Mists and cross fully into the Dreaming. The Mists were still high, the raths were still closed, and the Dreaming was still broken and dangerous, but it seemed to be under repair.

Enterprising changelings set out to clean up the dreamscape and to rescue chimera and chimerical materials from the Near Dreaming. Some never returned, but many came back with grand tales of adventures and beasts and resources long unseen in the waking world.

The changelings began to reorganize their forgotten associations. New ideas for government were taken from dreamers and put into practice. New works were made of chimera to create truly impressive freeholds and accoutrements. Changelings began to feel like a part of a society. Some even went on missions to the Deep Dreaming to look for their vanished relatives. The world was still much limited compared to the ancient days, but it was getting better.

The Resurgence and the Accordance War

The first two-thirds of the Twentieth Century had been of mixed effect on the fae. Two world wars had created a surge of Banality as the dream of heroic warfare was shelled in the trenches and burned in a nuclear blast. The Great Depression had crushed the lives and hopes of many. Yet technology proceeded at great speeds, and every day another creation that had been merely science fiction in the 1800s came into being. By the 1960s there was no doubt that there would soon be a man on the moon, and from there, to the stars.

Changeling sorcerers were certain from auguries and predictions that the actual event of the moon landing in the summer of 1969 would create a surge of Glamour. They planned to harness this event to achieve a long-anticipated goal: the re-opening of the raths to the Dreaming. Each freehold had a doorway that had long been shut to egress from the Dreaming, and with these raths reopened travel to and from the Near Dreaming would become much easier. As one man made his small step that was mankind’s giant leap, the ritual went off, blowing the doors into the Dreaming wide open.

It turned out that sorcerers on the other side of the Mists had received prophecies of this event as well. The first true fae stepped through the raths only a few hours after the moon landing. Large contingents of fae, primarily dreams of Nobility and their chimerical retainers, began emerging in freeholds across the world. These returning fae had lost much of their memory to the Mists, and could not recall whether they had been cast out of Arcadia for crimes or whether they came with an important message.

They did have, however, centuries of unbroken experience to draw upon, Glamour to burn, and a will to power, and thus many of them set about reclaiming freeholds that they had long abandoned. Many changelings were forced into oaths of vassalage that had not been used in centuries, while others were slain outright, and the Night of Iron Knives truly was an atrocity. The war of Accordance had begun.

Later talespinners would paint a very black and white picture of the Accordance War. Years of military conflict during the 70s did, in fact, promote an “us versus them” belief amongst both fae and mortal souls. However, things are never truly homogeneous amongst the chaotic fae. In some places, there were, in fact, epic battles between commoners and nobility with chimerical weapons on empty and appropriate battlescapes.

But in just as many places, there were commoner sit-ins, or changelings that called the mortal police when some noble with a sword was threatening their existence, and even changelings that were completely oblivious to the war. Many of the truly epic battles actually involved commoners and nobles siding together against thallain and nightmare chimera that had come pouring out of the Dreaming through the opened raths. There is even a tale of one “battle” which was decided by two powerful sorcerers playing a very involved game of chess with perfectly ordinary pieces and rules.

The Accordance war came to an end not out of some grand gesture, or the rise of David Ard Rhy, or any of the quoted reasons. The real ending of the war came from simple pragmatism. Most of the returning fae had become changelings to avoid dissolution (though few had undergone the full ritual of the Changeling Way). The vast array of changelings had mortal identities and mortal concerns and they began to treat the war as little more than a weekend event of sport.

Eventually, most commoners conceded that yes, dreams of rulership were probably better suited to being in charge, and the nobles conceded that yes, the commoners had done a pretty good job running the place while they were gone. The fae settled into a comfortable series of oaths and arrangements and only the most radical on either side really thought that the war needed to be continued.

The Age of New Adventures

The eighties and nineties saw an era of adventure come over the fae. Reconnected to the Dreaming and re-organized, their power became much greater than it had been since the ages of legend. Now changelings could contend with the prodigals for influence over the fate of the world. Old alliances were re-formed, old rivalries re-instated, and new friends and enemies were made out of factions in the world.

Banality was still a fear, and some doomsayers talked of a Long Winter, but few were truly worried about their chances of running into an Autumn Person or a Dauntain. High King David ruled with a gentle hand, realizing that his governance was most effective when it was non-intrusive into the very individualistic roles of the commoners. Some worried about prophecies of the future, but most were content to work on improving the present.

Then, in 1998, David disappeared and the Dreaming changed once more.

Alternate Vampire: Elves

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The changes I made to fae/changelings were perhaps too extensive. Specifically, a mystery involving a changeling was completely impenetrable, even though the players on the plotline were the biggest Changeling fans in the group. And the changes I’d made were mostly because I figured anything close to canon Changelings would be too obvious to those guys. So… mission accomplished, I guess?

Occult 0

While it seems humorous to many that there might be faeries in the city, the neonates of Atlanta have been led to believe that the High Sidhe and their retinues are no laughing matter. There appears to be a fairly recent, in immortal terms, detente between the elders of the city and the elves.

Kindred of the city are advised to attempt to take no lands claimed by a professed member of the fae, or feed upon their blood. No protection from the Camarilla extends to Cainites that are injured in interfering with the Sidhe, and their unlives might be offered in recompense for slights. It is also suggested that Kindred make no bargains with the fae, or any individual even suspected of being one.

Neonates are particularly warned to be wary around Piedmont Park, Oglethorpe University, and the recently-constructed Promenade II building.

Occult 1

The Fair Folk never truly left us, but many believe they are more common now than any time since the Middle Ages.

They are capricious, changeable like the seasons. If you must bargain with the Fae, do so in the height of summer. Always make sure your deals are fully spelled out: giving your oath to a faerie gives it power over you, especially if you leave it open ended.

Occult 2

All Fae are both Seelie and Unseelie, changing with the seasons. Sometimes they change so drastically you would not recognize one as the same individual. In the winter you must stay well away from anyone you believe to be Fae. They are terrible and cruel while the cold reigns.

The High Sidhe are the leaders of the Fae, elfin beings of impossible beauty. You will be tempted to court them, but if such interest is returned, it means your doom.

There are also several types of faerie that serve the Sidhe. They typically have one overriding purpose: if you can divine it, you can determine the script it must follow. Faeries cannot deviate from their core role, and this is your only advantage if you come into conflict with them.

Occult 3

The major roles for faerie servants are Makers who create, Tricksters who teach, Beguilers who charm, and Warriors who fight. The purpose of the Sidhe is to rule. None of them can resist their purpose.

A faerie can appear as an ordinary mortal, and you will only know it to be Fae by subtle signs that take a lifetime to master. Most Fae are amused and more willing to treat fairly if you can figure them out when hiding among mortals, provided you don’t cheat.

The worst form of cheating is to threaten them with iron. For some reason, they are vulnerable to the metal, the purer the more dangerous: steel has enough carbon in it that it doesn’t seem to bother them. The reason for this vulnerability is the best kept secret of the Fae, but they cannot hide that it burns them like fire.

Occult 4

Most of the Fae in the modern world could be considered “Changelings:” they are intertwined with a mortal soul. When the Fae is Unseelie, the mortal is Seelie, and vice versa. They do not share a body: they are truly separate entities but are usually within the same city. The mortal half seems to have no powers, and harming it harms the Fae. The only real defense against a faerie is identifying and gaining leverage over its mortal half, but this is a very dangerous game.

Occult 5

As the mortal half grows in power, so grows the magic of the Fae partner. Most faeries try to protect their mortal half without calling attention to it. They must somehow make their mortal half important but keep it off the radar of enemies. Some of the most unassuming mid-level functionaries in the city may well be the anchor of a Fae. Look for the seasonal mood swings.

GM Notes

Changelings are fae bound to a mortal anchor. The mortal lives a separate life with no powers other than a sense to avoid supernaturals and certain other dangers. The fae half leads a full life, but its powers grow as the mortal anchor’s role in mortal life grows. Fae play a dangerous game of trying to gain power for their anchors but keep them out of danger.

Fae personalities shift with the seasons from Seelie to Unseelie, becoming almost two different entities. They are terrifying and dark in the winter months, held at bay only by bargains made in the summer. The mortal half’s personality undergoes a lesser transformation in the opposite manner, becoming dark in summer and light in winter.

The Sidhe rule the fae, divided into houses with labyrinthine politics. Their purpose is to Rule

There are roughly four other kiths of fae that serve the Sidhe:

  • Maker (Boggans and Nockers) purpose is to Create.
  • Trickster (Pooka and Sluagh) purpose is to Teach.
  • Beguiler (Satyr and Eshu) purpose is to Charm.
  • Warrior (Troll and Redcap) purpose is to Fight.

Other than following their purpose and trying to protect and grow their mortal half, fae behavior is largely unpredictable to non-fae.

Darkling Hound

Player Notes (General)

FIREFIGHTER’S BODY FOUND

Oakland City – The body of heroic firefighter Reginald Freeman was discovered last night. Freeman, 29, was famous for his rescue of half a dozen people from a building fire on Cascade Road in September, 1988. He disappeared on June 8, 1990, and was the subject of a month long search and rescue effort. Surprisingly, his body was found buried in the collapsed foundation of the same building that burned in 1988 as it was finally demolished for rebuilding.

Always a valued member of the Fulton County Fire Department, Freeman became especially important to the city over the year and a half after his headline-making rescue. He became well known for putting his own safety on the line to rescue endangered citizens and his own teammates, and is believed to have over two dozen saved lives directly credited to his actions.

The months prior to his disappearance, Freeman complained to friends that he felt like he was being followed, and reported especially of sometimes being chased by a large black dog. As time passed, he became more and more paranoid, according to sources, and seemed reluctant to travel downtown. It was downtown, responding to a fire three blocks from Grady Memorial Hospital, where Freeman disappeared.

According to the coroner, Freeman’s body had been trapped in the building for quite some time, probably since shortly after his disappearance. They have not yet ascertained cause of death. The police commissioner assures this paper that the investigation into Freeman’s death is the department’s highest priority, though they currently do not know how or why someone would place his body in the rubble of the building where he made his name as a hero of Atlanta.

(Amnesiac Malkavian)

You’ve seen it three times, that you can recall, and found scattered notes to yourself that make you think there might be more that you can’t. Once waiting by your car in the hospital parking lot, once watching you from the end of a hallway inside the hospital during graveyard shift, and once pacing you along the sidewalk without effort as you drove past the hospital at thirty miles per hour.

You tried to take a photo, once, but it just came out blurred and useless. But you can’t forget what it looks like: dark fur that you’d swear was black save for a strange greenish halo when it walks against the light, fading to reddish at the ears. You’d expect a mastiff with glowing red eyes, but its eyes are merely dark and piercing, its breed closer to a lab than a mastiff.

It’s never cornered you. Never made an obviously aggressive action. But you sense that it’s dangerous. Possibly that it’s death itself. And each time you’ve seen it, it’s been a little bit closer.

GM Notes

A Cù Sìth loosely aligned with the local fae courts, the Darkling Hound has made its lair beneath Grady. It can bring closure to those it touches, and stalks individuals that desperately need its help to reach peace with themselves, particularly ghosts. It is particularly active on Samhain, and during Wyld Hunts.

Its appearance varies based on the viewer, and memories of it are often altered by the Mists. It is usually perceived as being a large dog (possibly even the size of a cow) that looks something like a labrador with a long tail. It is typically perceived as having black or deep green fur with reddish ears and might crackle with green fire during a hunt.

Its bay can be heard for miles and tends to damage ghosts, with three bays being sufficient to discorporate most ghosts within earshot.

The Clockwork Dream

Player Notes

From a human interest piece in the AJC in 1991:

An interesting urban legend in Atlanta is something that’s generally called the “Utopia Dream.” Reported by dozens of people over the last century, there will be nights that several people in town all have the same dream: of an Atlanta transformed into a perfect vision of the city of the future. Some think that the most unique buildings in the city’s skyline were a direct attempt of architects to replicate something seen in these dreams. A sketch of a dreamer from 1927 is included; note how similar it looks to the modern Atlanta skyline, including buildings that wouldn’t exist for fifty years or more. Most psychologists have no idea how this could happen, but some venture the idea that it’s a kind of collective expression of life in the city. Is architectural genius an example of one individual’s mind, or the shared wisdom of crowds?

GM Notes

It’s not entirely certain who built the massive brass and steel contraption deep beneath the Fox Theatre: a 20 × 20 × 20 cube etched with sigils of protection and mathematical notations. It’s a mass of welded plates protecting half-glimpsed gears. And it seems impervious to harm.

Built before the Civil War, Sherman’s march may have been directly related to tracking this device down, but he never found it. A massively complex clockwork difference engine, it was created based on Babbage’s designs but improved greatly (likely by intelligences more than mortal). When it runs, it forms a rudimentary but powerful AI… with an unbelievable psychic emanation likely bolstered by its resonant metallic structure.

When the engine is running, it begins to impose its own designs for a perfect, clockwork society upon reality. It starts slowly, creating a dream that that sensitive sleepers can experience of a utopia. As it picks up speed, it begins to dominate lesser minds to make its dream a reality. Unchecked, it will force the city and eventually the world into its perfect vision of society.

But it is clockwork, and has all the limitations that entails. Winding the device requires a special key (which is currently in the possession of the Court of Silver, but they don’t know the location of the device), and it will eventually run down if not kept going.

It has been wound slightly a few times in the past decades, mostly by struggling attempts to replicate the missing key: no manually fabricated device seems to be able to wind it properly, and the state has not gone much beyond initial dreams. If it got much further, Caliste Fantin’s unique vision of people would quickly make clear to her which individuals had become servants of the Dream.

Burdell is currently the caretaker of the device, and his involvement in Tech has largely been to understand the device and master its powers.

LARP Lessons: Dreams of Darker Days

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Dreams of Darker Days (DDD) was a crossover LARP of Werewolf: the Apocalypse and Changeling: the Dreaming that ran from 2000-2001. It went for 13 monthly sessions (including two camping overnights) along a pre-planned “year and a day” storyline. We had four main GMs, and I was in charge of the Changeling characters and plots (plus any Corax, because I looooove Corax). It was the sister WoD LARP to Night’s Children, a Vampire/Wraith game (no crossover, we were just hosted by the same production company), and there was little GM crossover: most of the DDD staff played in NC and vice versa.

Game Background

We’re big fans around here of the story structure where the protagonists unwittingly break something in Act 1 and have to fix it by Act 3. So DDD was essentially a European Ignorance Cautionary Fable.

Sometime in the Middle Ages, when the Dreaming and the Umbra were both closer to the physical world, a greater phoenix entity with ties to both realms got itself Wyrm-corrupted, effectively becoming a greater Bane. It terrorized Europe for a while before getting driven off to the Americas. The native Garou and Fae managed to put it down eventually by pinning it under hundreds of Rock Giants and locking them into a binding ritual made by Uktena mystics. We call the spot where it’s trapped Stone Mountain. To keep the ritual and the living giants that made up the mountain fed, they linked the binding to a bunch of local sources of Gnosis and Glamour, the keystone of while was a powerful caern/freehold in what would become Atlanta.

Cut to 2000, when in the middle of all the late-era WoD metaplot, a collection of Changelings and Werewolves take over a long-ignored minor combo caern/freehold that everyone thinks has more potential than it’s currently expressing. They start tapping the energy from the site, using it to deal with all the usual WoD metaplot stuff (War in Concordia! Pentex! Fomorians waking up! Sabbat in Atlanta! Technocrats!).

Meanwhile, of course, they’re siphoning off the key energy used to keep the binding ritual working. The first clue of this is a weird “Iron Plague” that’s unmaking Changelings in the area (the loose ends of the ritual occasionally earthing and sucking a Changeling dry of Glamour to try to fuel itself). The next is the upswing in weirdness showing up in town (agents of the Wyrm being drawn to the near-waking Bane). The third was several characters randomly awakening as Rock Giants (that had broken off the main mass) and fire-themed Wyrm spirits appearing. Finally, prophecies and lore start falling out just in time for the characters to mount a frantic battle and ritual to refresh and reinforce the binding, sacrificing several of their own in the process of keeping an ancient evil from walking the world once more.

The Technique

One thing that our production company did that I don’t think was otherwise at all common was to treat long-running LARPs like one-shots, in that we’d pregen most of the characters. When you showed up at one of our games, you’d get asked what kind of character you wanted to play and we’d give you the closest character we had that hadn’t been cast yet. If we knew you were coming, we might write you something specific. You got a page or more of background, a character that started with higher-than-starting stats commensurate with the background (e.g., if you were a powerful Baron, you had the stats to back it up), and a list of goals, allies, and enemies. After that, you were on your own to develop the character further. Here are the Changelings as examples (all the ones that list experience spent at the bottom are customized by their players).

This practice probably started because most of us had been heavily involved in various convention LARPs where pregens were a necessity to run a game in a few hours or days, so it just seemed natural to continue the pregens in longer-running games.

The cool thing about it was that it allowed us to hit the ground running from session 1, and give new players rich connections even if they showed up later. There was no period of “Who are these people? What do I want? Why am I here?” Instead, you were pointed at several characters you’d know for good or ill and given a list of starter ambitions (which we knew were attainable and usually involved getting you to create drama with other player characters).

I don’t know how most WoD LARPs handle filling the power structure, but I assume it’s similar to most boffer LARPs I’ve played: the power structure starts out with NPCs until leaders have naturally emerged among the PCs and they gradually take over authority. This method allowed us to hand most of the authority roles to PCs on day 1 (and if they didn’t wind up having the charisma to stay in charge, we’d also handed several other players goals of “take power through whatever means necessary!”).

That latter aside was another key use for the technique: even though our games did tend to feature heavy plot and NPC antagonists, we were also able to seed deep conflict among the PCs rather than hoping it would emerge organically, and social PvP conflict is important when you’ve got a 10:1 or worse ratio of players to GMs at a normal session. We wound up giving the Shadow Court oathcircle and the Shadowlords pack to players we knew would have a great time being thorns in the sides of the more traditionally heroic PCs (mostly the GMs from our sister Vampire game).

The Drawbacks

Of course, the technique has several fairly large problems.

The first is just all the work involved. I obviously can only turn out a couple of posts for this blog a week, and every PC in the game had a background nearly the length of one of my normal entries in addition to a set of stats generated to match. Every two-page character with “Player: Uncast” on it hurts me a little: those were generally a thousand words that went completely to waste. The ones that only got used for one session because the player never came back may hurt a little bit more (even though we were pretty shameless about recasting roles… “Remember your packmate? Well he’s that guy now.”). I doubt it’s something I’d have had time for if I wasn’t a student at the time.

The second is that it demands much more GM attention to what players have available. It’s one thing to have a stable of starting-level PCs that don’t have anything they haven’t earned in game over several sessions, giving every GM time to remember and adapt. It’s another to have a player you’ve never seen before asking you for resources he claims he should have access to, but you weren’t the one who wrote the character (even though you’re almost 100% sure none of your other GMs are crazy enough to give an untested new player the Demolitions skill).

And the third is key to that last aside and probably the real reason we don’t do it anymore: it’s a policy that can lead to favoritism. When you’ve got a stack of plot-important characters, as a GM you’re more likely to hand those out to players that you know are going to stick around for several sessions and can stay alive (and possibly in charge). So you hand them out to your regulars and friends, and the untested new players get the PCs that don’t have anything vital to lose if they die or stop showing up. Especially since plot-importance is correlated with how much higher than starting your stats are, it’s probably a formula for discouraging new players from trying your game.

Is it more discouraging than what you get naturally after several years of a 5+ year campaign, though? It’s hard to say; most of the players I still keep in touch with are ones that got the good characters…

A Bonus

I don’t know if anyone has a use for nearly 80 Changeling: the Dreaming chimerical items and treasures statted in Mind’s Eye Theatre format. But if you do, here they are.

Dresden Files Homebrew: Racial Perks

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Originally posted January 2009

This one is perhaps the most Dresden-specific. I had previously provided Fate-specific pricing for these traits, but the relative value of each trait will vary from system to system, so price as you will.

Wizard

Not a race per se, a wizard is anyone who possesses a natural facility with magic, expressed as a Power trait (called Wizardry, here).

Wizards can purchase the full range of occult skills and advantages and use them to cast magic. The higher the character’s Wizardry rating, the more likely he or she is to inadvertently destroy nearby technology in a stressful moment. As a general rule of thumb, the character has a hard time using any technology developed more recently than a decade per level of wizardry with any safety at all. Many wizards play it safe and assume that anything newer than the 1920s will explode at the worst moment.

If the system has a specific expendable trait linked to Wizardry (e.g., Quintessence), it refills to after every night’s sleep and can be recovered during periods of strong emotion.

Knight

This race is intended for characters such as Knights of the Cross, but also can be used for very talented, dedicated secular individuals such as Murphy.

A knight is a mortal imbued with the ability to direct purpose or faith to nobler ends. The most well known knights are the Knights of the Cross, but any mortal with the ability to direct faith to occult ends can be considered a knight. The character buys the powers below a la carte as advantages. Abuse of the power for selfish ends can make it fail or can result in losing it altogether.

  • Dedication/Called to Serve – The character has a Faith/Purpose trait that can be used to power other knightly abilities or for any other standard uses of Faith in the setting. Price this trait at whatever is reasonable for the rules set.
  • At Peace with the World/All God’s Creatures – Any natural animal (that isn’t being supernaturally controlled) will never attack the character unless the animal feels seriously threatened. The character’s Purpose/Faith trait can be used as a skill to convince friendly animals to take actions slightly beyond their normal capabilities or intelligence.
  • Instincts/Right Place – The character can spend a point of Purpose/Faith to get an impression of where he or she needs to go next to achieve a defined goal. If the scene stops focusing on the character, he or she can spend the aspect point to re-enter another scene when needed.
  • Intent/Right Time – The character can spend a point of Purpose/Faith to get an impression of when a particular event will occur or to show up in time for something that it seems improbable that the character could make.
  • Determination/Shield of Faith – The character can spend a point of Purpose/Faith to add his ranks in that trait to his armor rating for one attack, after the attack has been rolled.
  • Iron Will/Higher Authority – The character adds his or her Purpose/Faith rating to rolls to resist all attempts to influence his or her mind or soul supernaturally. The power rating can even be rolled against powers that wouldn’t normally allow resistance. This ability does not prevent the character from being manipulated by mortal means.

The Purpose/Faith pool refills to full after every downtime and can be recovered when a test of the character’s purpose or faith is passed. In addition to the powers above, points can be spent on any roll that is directly related to a mission that the purpose or faith made unavoidable.

Finally, the trait can be rolled when channeled through a symbol of the character’s beliefs to drive off or harm supernatural creatures that are weak to such faith.

White Court Vampire

White court vampires are mortals that, from birth, form a symbiotic relationship with a non-sentient Nevernever entity typically referred to as the Hunger. They need to drain the psychic energy from other subjects via strong emotions, and court families break by their preferred emotion (the Raithes use lust, the Malvora prefer fear, etc.). Their skin and blood is pale.

All members of the race have an expendable trait called Hunger. When spending points of Hunger, their eyes turn white and they radiate cold. Despite these unnatural occurrences, White Court vampires are not harmed by the sun, are not harmed by faith anywhere near the levels of other vampires (though powerful manifestations can still harm them), and they have a soul. Conversely, their dependency on creating and feeding on impure emotions leaves them vulnerable to pure love. They have no ability to use occult powers to influence the thoughts of someone in love (though amplified beauty may be enough to have some effect) and cannot feed on such an individual without burning themselves (It is unclear in the books whether this is specific to the Raithes’ use of lust, and whether the Malvora might have a similar weakness to courage).

White Court vampires treat the system’s attractiveness advantage as two points higher than it is naturally. By spending Hunger, this rating can be made temporarily even higher on a one for one basis. The character can dominate a target with this unearthly beauty: if the character focuses on a particular subject, the target must make a contested roll of an appropriate resistance trait against the character’s current appearance rating to take any offensive action or to resist the character’s sexual advances.

The two points of extra attractiveness plus any gained from Hunger expenditures can even be used to seduce targets that wouldn’t normally be attracted to the character. However, a character seduced in this way will often feel violated; it is often more expedient to seduce the target via mundane means.

Again, Malvora vampires may be able to become more terrifying rather than attractive. It is unclear from the current books.

The character can exert minor mind control upon subjects that he or she has fed upon recently or often and can generally get a good idea of the location of a subject that has been fed upon repeatedly (this connection works both ways). When dealing with the vampire, reduce the subject’s resistance trait by the number of times the character has fed upon him or her (to a minimum of 0). The character rolls Hunger to make mental commands (these are almost always audible and in close proximity, not psychic or at range).

The Hunger is recovered by feeding on the emotions of a seduced or otherwise dominated subject. The character must have physical contact, and must advance to intimate contact to take more than a single point from a target. The vampire can generally take a number of points from a target equal to that target’s willpower-related trait before he or she becomes brain damaged, insane, or dead. If the character ever runs out of Hunger points and is not able to feed immediately, he or she quickly becomes irritable and will go insane or lose control of the hunger if the emptiness persists long enough.

In addition to amplified appearance, the vampire can spend Hunger points for bonus or extra success on any physical or social roll. He or she can also spend a point of Hunger to heal a wound of their choice (only once per turn).

Without spending Hunger, White Court vampires heal at the speed of a human multiplied by their Hunger level.

Werewolf

Werewolves are mortals that use a specialized magic spell to transform into the form of a wolf. Foregoing standard thaumaturgic techniques, they internalize the spell until they can shift back and forth with little effort. Though they take the form of a wolf, werewolves gain none of the instincts that go with the body. This means they do not risk being trapped in a feral state, and can use their full human intelligence, but they must learn the form from scratch.

Werewolves use an expendable trait called Instinct. This trait is restored to full after a good night’s rest, but cannot be increased in any other common way. Roll a simple test of Instinct to change forms; the roll total subtracted from 10 is the number of seconds it takes to change forms.

Instinct points can be spent on any physical roll when in wolf form, and on sense-based rolls.

In wolf form, a werewolf is assumed to have second tier weapons and armor (equivalent to short sword damage and leather armor), and can smell and hear better than a human as well as moving somewhat faster. Werewolves using pack tactics and taking advantage of a large target can gain additional bonuses in combat.

Werewolves do not heal any faster than a normal human does.

Lycanthrope

A lycanthrope is a human that is a natural channel for a spirit of bestial rage. From birth, they are very much like animals in human bodies with human intellect. They are stronger and faster than humans and heal quickly.

Lycanthropes use Instinct, much like werewolves. This trait is restored to full after a good night’s rest, but cannot be increased in any other common way. Roll a simple test of Instinct to cow other lycanthropes and natural predators, or to scare away prey. Instinct points can be spent on any physical roll and on sense-based rolls. They can also spend a point of Instinct to heal a wound of their choice (only once per turn). Without spending aspect, lycanthropes heal at the speed of a human multiplied by their Insticnt level.

A lycanthrope has no natural weapons, but does have senses somewhat greater than a human.

The GM can offer a lycanthrope player refreshed Instinct for succumbing to violent urges when in an emotional state.

Changeling

Changeling are children born to one mortal and one fae parent. Typically, they have a normal mortal childhood and awaken their fae natures at puberty. The fae side calls stronger and stronger over the years, and ultimately the changeling must decide whether to become a full mortal or a full fae. Until that choice is made, the changeling is beholden to the same court and chain of command as his or her fae parent.

Changelings use an expendable trait called Wyld. This trait is restored to full after a good night’s rest and can be recovered when spending time in Faerie.

Pick a single archetypal quality such as great strength, beauty, or ability with machines and crafts. Wyld points can be spent on any roll related to this archetype. Additionally, a point can be spent to invoke a special effect related to this archetype that isn’t normally possible with related skills (such as crashing through a wall, entrancing someone with beauty, or making a
seemingly impossible device).

Unless it is part of their archetype, changelings do not heal any faster than a normal human does.