Changeling: The Lost by Gerund
IntroductionOriginal SA post
So you want to be a Fae...
We're going to have a bit of real talk here.
For me, the best F&F write-ups are about games people love- or at least love to hate. When a game is itself a chore to write about, you despise writing, and it shows.
I love C:tL. Out of all of White Wolf, out of all RPGs, out of all games you can play on a table at home with a beer in your hand, I love C:tL.
It is (if you'll allow me to indulge in some pretentious capitalization) a game about Time, and Fate, and Stories, and Pain. It is a game about surviving, and making the act of surviving Mean Something. It is about creating your own identity out of broken mirror pieces. It is about reliving the slaughter of a single day; or the subtle destruction of a thousand nights.
It is a game about turning into an Ape and tearing the roof off of the DMV. And about scamming your way to the top, and then living long enough to brag about it. And getting drunk while having a rhyme-battle while your characters are also getting drunk. And where being clever and witty and having a good sense of puns and metaphors is more important than what all the excel sheets in the world could provide.
Its an intensely personal game, played best with a group of friends with fantastic personalities.
Welcome to Changeling: The Lost
People tell stories to add sense to tragedyOriginal SA post
People tell stories to add sense to tragedy
Within the first few pages of Changeling: the Lost, you are given two pieces of fiction that (thankfully) evoke something more than the Gothic X-Men pastiche that the World of Darkness is known for. Instead, we're given details of something as cruel as it is considerate, like a burned thumb from a hot stove. C:tL is wrapped in the allegories of elders, where bad things happen to good people for a sensible reason.
The first story is What Alec Bourbon Said . As a tip of the hat to White Wolf fiction of lore, it details powers and effects that aren't exactly present in the rules but certainly come close to what should be present later.
A page of description (white text on black pages, pictures of a seedy bar) about the eponymous Alec Bourbon, a Winter changeling of a Tree-esque kith- both of these features will be repetitively detailed throughout- that holds court in a skid row bar in the tri-state area. He appears to be an old hobo drunk with complete dominance of his people, able to lay a powerful and spiteful curse on those that owe him or cross him.
In walks a pretty young lady, speaking in the stilted language of someone Other than us, speaking to Alec's promises and accepting to drink with him while in his bar to talk business. They come to some sort of agreement over a less-detailed pledge than would normally fly in games, but the benefit of it is that the bar's eyes and ears forget the important details, accept for a promise of A Year & A Day .
So Mr. Bourbon is out into the streets, hunting. As this is White Wolf, this means hunting for imperiled alone young innocent and ignorant ladies (the inherent rape metaphor only barely achieves subtext). Alec Bourbon has the specific stealth of following 99 steps behind, tracking his target without even following her path. A few minutes of waiting outside, Bourbon 'luckily' pushes the door into the apartment as another couple leaves.
And then we come to the real magic. A rowan club that always helps with keeping his promises: Token. A spell to appear as a favorite Uncle: Wyrd-faced Stranger. A target that just had a birthday: prophecy/fate magic. An oddly-ruled and unfair guessing game: a nasty pledge. A body that turns into junk when he looks away: either the target was a Fetch, or Alec Bourbon is in league with a Keeper (I prefer the former conclusion). A beer that is only drank once or twice a year: some sort of re-gained clarity, or a certain aspect of a pledge-promise.
But then the Lady returns, talking of a temporarily-eased burden and promising to buy him a drink. But Alec Bourbon will take that drink and savor it un-tasted; holding her to a promise as it sits out of reach of the bar.
This is a changeling story. The themes of junk, homelessness, abuse, kidnapping, promises and duty, spite, self-hate, and the sort of faerie magic that refuses to act scientifically 1 .
Table of Contents
Prologue 2 (8 pages)
Introduction 10 (8 pages)
Chapter One: The World Behind the Mask 18 (52 pages)
Chapter Two: Character Creation 70 (100 pages)
Chapter Three: Special Rules and Systems 170 (60 pages)
Chapter Four: Storytelling 230 (56 pages)
Appendix One: Entitlements 286 (36 pages)
Appendix Two: Freehold of Miami 322 (23 pages)
Index 346 (3 pages)
The next story is crafted in the same way as pre-Disney children's fiction books: a snatch of text on one side and a well-drawn picture to compliment it. It is from the point of view of a hapless babysitter (imperiled alone young innocent and ignorant, naturally) trying to find... someone. She walked into the wilderness and is now lost . Her scratches bleed and her memory fades- except, hello, here is the face of some girl that drowned a year ago~! (that girl was likely a dead fetch, either killed by this changeling or a spiteful Keeper) This strange face wearing a dog collar (...) is telling her to go back, that the boy is already home, and she has to keep to the path behind her.
And when she returns, Danny is taller, forgot the cat's name, and is a fetch that replaced the kid she lost to the Keeper. The changeling that told her to return was likely a servant of the Keeper and wore the Other's collar (......) and probably didn't want to take two souls away when she only had to take one.
This is a changeling story. Kidnapping, replacement, the sense that maybe your memory is wrong or corrupted and life doesn't make sense to you, duty, tragedy, sadness, injury, fear of the wilderness, thorns 2 .
The top-of-page blurb from the Grimms are of a poetic speaker promising pleasures in exchange of a person (and therefore what makes you a person). White Wolf is- smartly- going to be playing with these themes in Demon: the Frutang since Demon is about role-playing antagonists (but avoiding the walking pedophile-metaphor that is modern vampires).
What is the game? "what happens when old stories prove true". Well, okay. There exists abusive people who do bad things to good people, but they live according to a set of rules that would make every flavor of OCD make sense (junk and trash being evil is a theme). You play the people who were taken and changed by their durance, and escaped because of their memory of home 3 .
It is a game of Beautiful Madness. This is the point where I bring up the capitalization conventions. You play faeries, opposed by True Fae. You may possess a cat, but you are not a Keeper. You may be strangers in a strange land, but you are not an Other. So when I start using pretentious capitals, assume that Arcadia Willed It So 4 .
Beauty, in the way that a poem is beautiful no matter what the subject. Madness, in the frantic action that demands a response. Stasis is death to faeries, not disbelief. If you don't fight keep yourself sane and safe, you're as gone as if you filled out your last hit-box with lethal. Without the Clarity of who you are and what it means, you are hopelessly lost 5 .
So how do you play? To understand the Wyrd and all its permutations is essential to play a changeling.
Promises: the Lost live in a world of pledges (it is described as how the magic 'works', depending on your point of view). The freehold lives with promises, and changelings are strong if they get a promise and weak if they give a promise. Without that promise of a pledge to enmesh yourself in- its you, you're the imperiled alone young innocent and ignorant one.
Deception: changelings are constantly lying to two parties; the mortals who in their ignorance would destroy your world if they knew about it, and the hedge-natives that would, armed by your ignorance, destroy your world if you let them know about it. This deception has a price, of course: sometimes a natural consequence of eternal vigilance; sometimes a purposeful injury to those that would have helped you, if they had only kept their promises.
Symbolism: Magic and roles as a changeling is typified by holistic archetypes, not exacting details of perception. Most of the magic, then, is symbolic as it gives you power for 'a Scene' or 'an effect', not to be broken down by autopsy to find some ineffable "truth".
Some of this is comical, most isn't. We are near half a decade past C:tL's publication in 2007, and since then the potential source material has multiplied ten-fold (Lost Girl, Once Upon a Time, Hansel & Gretel, Hellboy 2, the list goes on). I believe that is because the people that purchased and played the successful game-line have begun to hunger for material that is like it.
However, when first published, this is what they have:
Non-fiction peices about Grimm's allegories and other details of historic myths and superstition.
Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, American Gods, Anansi Boys, Stardust, Sandman & more.
Fables , though perhaps a little too on-the-nose about Disney figures for C:tL proper.
Poetry. All of it! You should read more poetry.
American Beauty (gag, gag, gag)
Labyrinth , both Henson's and del Toro's
Other than American Beauty (I mean fucking really ?) you're not going to be that disappointed by the writer's choices. If/when a GMC revision comes, I'd love to read into what came out post-2007 that gets included.
And then another piece of fiction, this time about a changeling, who has a fear of the modern technology that is the telephone (another major theme: anything that wasn't artisanally made or altered by one of your super-hipster faerie friends is something dangerous and best left behind ).
This time, he's threatened with being taken again, but this time by a different changeling servant, who is apparently smarter than the target and has a murderous rage to go with an Arcadian token and a snow-fused body. The last moment, preserved in ice in the accompanying picture, is when the phone rings again.
My theory is that this is a nightmare about technology, either enacted by Fate in real life or just a dream that will be woken up from. Either way, changelings aren't nice people. They insult, they destroy, and they kill. And they are euphoric when it happens, not because of some phony god's blessing, but because they are enlightened by their own Wyrd.
( next time: fifty pages of setting fiction with rules scattered within)
1 the Wyrd is Michigan J. Frog and hopeless aspie nerds are the construction worker that really should have gone back to playing Mage.
2 and slave/master dynamics that only need a utilikilt to have come straight out of fetlife, there I said it!
3 It is mentioned later in Equinox Road that changelings without clear memories of home and a human-like body cannot leave Arcadia, period. A baby or child left to become fae (eating food, to quote Persephone) stays no matter how many layers of magic you use to argue your case, and the same goes for characters with eight arms and no clear memory of home to hold onto. So if you're running C:tL you're completely in your rights to reject infantile characters, civil-war era backgrounds or changelings that are completely foreign in place or form than where you set your chronicle. By rules, there are no special snowflake exceptions .
4 Is Arcadia the same place as mentioned in Mage? Fuck you, and I'll explain exactly why when we get to Equinox Road
5 One of the issues with the game, present in the first few pages, is the dichotomy of approaches as a changeling: attempting to live as a mortal and ignoring the hedge, and attempting to live in the hedge and ignoring the mortals. Both approaches have rules supporting them in the book, and its a good idea to sit down with your players in the first session and explain what you're interested in and the other people are interested in, and coming to a consensus. Talking like adults step one is much better than dissolving the game weeks later when people that should be happy aren't.
Where the Magic Happens 101Original SA post
Where the Magic Happens 101
We open on pg20 with a pull quote from "Goblin Market" , a fairly noteworthy poem. The theme is about running, escape, and a looming threat tinged with gendered violence (imperiled woman, likely young innocent and ignorant). CtL lays its themes down with the grace of a rogue bull hippo.
Arcadia: the idyllic utopia of romantics and idealists pining for an unspoiled paradise filled with idle pursuits and tolerance 1 . But no, Arcadia is where the scary stories live; only the bright and unspoiled Kindly Ones get to be the featured heroes and villans; to them, mortals are silly distractions best used as local color, like the audience for a play. And some of their play is downright mean and cruel, and altogether abusive.
Everything is Faerie down here. Time, Truth, and Territory is relative and flexible, and the True Fae are the masters of their domain. Like with a freeform RP or MUD, the only reality that exists is what you can get everyone to agree to; however, that 'everyone' also includes the fire and the trees and the concept of doorways. These agreements become codified into program-like legalisms that without which the whole system would crack and fall apart. These are Contracts, and this is the Fae magic of the Wyrd.
Describing 'a' True Fae is impossible; they are the swift coursing river, the great forceful typhoon, the raging fire, and the mysterious dark side of the moon all in one. So why care? Why does this collection of overblown internet RP'ers matter? Because they steal people, crossing the wild sea of thorn and bramble called the Hedge that 'borders' 2 our two worlds, to seize mortal souls and drag them back to live their lives in faerie. The only way for a human to visit Faerie is to be taken 3 , and this fact is a crucial element to a changeling.
You got taken. The book details methods in which this would happen to you (all secretly your fault all along, of course). Were you taken as a child? Did you walk into the wild? Was a hunt or dance your evil trap? How about at random- snap snap snap? Whatever the reason, the point is made that anyone can be taken, at any time, from any place, by a being far more random and arbitrary than a vampire's embrace.
But there you are in your durance, and your relation to the Keeper creates your Seeming (think Path/Clan/'Race') and Kith. Because to survive your Durance you 'choose' to change (coercion is such a naughty word) in order to fit the Keeper's world-view. You become a faerie, inexorably touched by fate. You gain features that will be your Seeming and Kith and Contracts and essentially half of your splat features, all from this one period of your life. This is where creative players can come up with very interesting concepts out of their id or superego... or just go vague and say that your character doesn't remember. Part of having lower Wyrd is that you simply don't remember all the facts of your time in Arcadia; it increases over time, and by your memory and awareness of the strange thing that happened to you, you become more in-tune with those powers. Unlocking an inner forgotten power that was 'put' into you is a theme.
And then you escape; there are as many examples of escape as there are your durance and your abduction; you can conceivably mix and match to taste. Speed, violence, luck, stealth, cunning, friendship (a motley of players fresh out of Arcadia is the 'preferred' way to start a game). But even after doing something magical like pushing the witch into the furnace, the prophecy game comes into play: if the True Fae are masters of your fate, how and why would you escape in the first place? (More than a few brains get blown out at this point)
At this point, the game nicely interrupts its own narrative to bring up the concept of the Mask; the strange faerie glamour that allows people "in the know" to see the horns and sparks of flame while keeping the normies from finding anything out. But it only works outside the Hedge and Arcadia, like a natural weirdness censor of Earth (or evidence that you're all experiencing a group delusion, on the lower Clarity side of things).
And so you return, to find that things aren't right:
Rip Van Winkle'd; you're 50 years too late or, oddly, too early.
Prematurely aged; a 30 year-old you trying to re-live your twelve year old life.
Doppleganger'd; you've got someone else wearing your face
- Officially Dead or Missing; sometimes you come back and there isn't a you-shaped hole in the world you can just jump back into.
The Doppleganger is a nasty piece of True Fae trickery- during and/or after your abduction, the True Fae makes a copy of you to replace you, act its part, and in all cases be you (if slightly different). The game at this point assumes that a player with a fetch will kill it, if just to act as a sort of catharsis. But even so, what price are you willing to pay to get back at someone?
Now we come to the large social world aspect of the game- you're assumed to come into contact with the preferred social unit of "the Freehold". A place to belong, mutual defense, and a place to be as Fae as you want to Bae. It's mentioned here that the Freehold is in some way a reflection of the Arcadian politic, like day care kids having their own, smaller day care within it 4
And then we get to the Hedge. It exists "between" the two worlds, and is described in this book as being a place of deliberately euro-style wild gardens and bogs other pulls from the David Bowie masterpiece Labyrinth . A place where you can't see the horizon past the brambles, and jumping to the sky is a foolish idea. And within the thorns lay Trods- paths to and from one place to another. some well kept (and therefore more likely used by powerful/evil fae) and some unkempt (more dangerous terrain). Either way, your Changeling is able to open doors from the Real world into the Hedge- but it maintains in the text that some places are easier than others (because of the time and method of your usage), and while you can come from anywhere on the globe to the Hedge, each door is another path for the True Fae to cross into our world, and humans to cross into ours. Wander away from the door as a human, and you leave your soul up for Fate to decide; but as a changeling, you are much more able to move around... and much more tasty.
So then we get another description of Trods. This time, they are fonts of glamour (power pool points) and sources of hedge-gates, much like ley lines and nexuses and Wyrm's Nests and other well-tread concepts from other White Wolf gamelines. Thankfully, this aspect of Trods gets dropped nearly instantly in the game itself. In every other piece of fiction of the game line, Trods are used interchangeably with the concept of 'paths' detailed above.
Then the book talks about Hollows- wide and safer places within the hedge created 'by the oaths of hospitality' and hearth and home. A place to rest your head, if you feel safe there in your lodge of choice. Hollows are places where 'things happen', and a well-defined hollow breathes life into the game in a way that a character-filled bar or street makes for a good trip. In the hedge, anything can happen; but in a hollow, anything can happen within a consistent and well-regarded backdrop.
Next time: Living life as a changeling.
1 For the modern version, see Portlandia.
2 I'll get to the medievalist invisible geography of the Hedge when I do Dancers in the Dusk
3 At least until Equinox Road is published
Welcome to your new BFFsOriginal SA post
Another short shot- pg 31 to 45
Welcome to your new BFFs
In the C:tL setting, the PC group (called a Motley) can easily have all escaped from the same Arcadian durance. This being a White Wolf game, however, you must assume that there are other odd duckings just like you hiding from humanity and, especially, punishing you for not hiding as well as you should.
Thankfully, for all your antlers and lightning sparks, you still have the Mask, which only other changelings can see through. So when a fellow Lost sees a fellow monster in the midst of the medical center, they will, typically, freak the hell out. At this point, the other fae points the newly-escaped to the closest place of hospitality of a Freehold.
What is a Freehold? A faerie Court, or arrangement of Courts, that rules their fellow lost with the weight of sacred pledges. The court is always ruled by a Monarch- who, while blessed with the Wyrd, still may rule however they wish. The most important element of the Monarch, however, is that they must somehow share power; be it by exchanging absolute power at an agreed upon time, dividing their zones of control, or abdicating their Crown when the weight of story changes from bright hope into dreary fatalism, or another other arrangement 1 . What is important is that somehow, absolute power is limited and shared for no reason other than to chase the True Fae away, for the True Fae cannot understand someone who would not use their Wyrd powers to dominate completely.
A Freehold serves as a regulatory body, keepers of a masquerade, defenders from loyalists and freebooters within the hedge and without, emotional and financial assistance. Above all else, the Freehold is your new home, so get used to it; even the worst freeholds have few willing to leave, as to travel into the wild blue yonder is a fear that few changelings can bear.
The primary element of this trust of the Freehold is the oath of hospitality: a (sadly undefined) weight of tradition that keeps frenzied ogres & beasts from shitting at the public watering hole. Usually, this is in a communal hollow, or a place owned by someone very powerful.
Going to the place of hospitality is, for changelings of a Freehold, a big deal. Changelings find it very difficult to trust anyone, when every other person might secretly be selling your secrets to their Keeper. And only in the smallest freeholds can a changeling be in a sensible personal pledge with everyone. So your best bet is to go hear the gossip- see who is trustworthy and who is not. Reputation is everything when it means trusting someone to not kill you in your sleep.
But what to do with someone who does betray the Freehold? Ah, this is where the fragile minds of the changelings must be considered. Few changelings can give or receive bondage to another because of the nature of their Clarity and durance. And only a changeling that agreed to the sanction of banishment in the first place can be so bound. Therefore, most of the time Changelings will simply kill shitheads that they don't like if a public slap on the wrist won't do. The Lost are sad, broken people.
But what if you don't want to make new faerie friends? Perhaps they stink. Then, well, there is always an attempt to go stealth in the human society- a fine and supported way to play the game, if you so choose, if in opposition to half the pages written in the book. Many changelings do attempt to reclaim their past lives as best they can; just because they were fated to fail doesn't mean that you are, right? You've got Wyrd luck on your side, and that never fails! 2
A sidebar of a new rule: Functional Mortal Personality. A form of split personality where half of you still believes it is a real mortal, and only when necessary does your fae side come roaring out, blocking itself from being recalled outside its Fugue state. Being a werewolf, essentially, without the fuzzy stuff.
( next time: a/the great seasonal courts!)
1 - In Winter Masques , they mention a Court of Donkey opposed by a Court of Elephant; while never expanded upon, its your invitation to go nuts.
2 - C:tL also tells of changelings that attempt to "go straight" and then sneak out of the house to play in the fae world in a totally-not-about-being-a-closeted-homosexual way.
Its your body, abuse it!Original SA post
Its your body, abuse it!
We start with a short nWoD style history of the Seasonal courts: in the west, dating to the "end of the Dark Ages" 1 , but also starting during the Roman Empire .
Anyway, the Greater Courts were founded in times that are legendary to modern changelings, by individuals who made a pledge with their seasons to empower the Mantle of the court- a sort of magical shield that, while still in the same fae vein of the Wyrd, is separate from the Gentry. These pacts also give a form of a magical Contract 2 , and also a device to share control and power with their fellow changelings of a like style.
Yes, if you don't share the narrative, the Keepers come to snatch you away. Morals of the Story are a theme.
So North America & Europe get the Seasonal Courts as a 'thing'. But the Sun courts (dawn, noon, dusk, night) and Directional Courts (East, West etc) and a Bhuddist court are also extant. 3 But because Glamour is a piece of the emotional Wyrd, each Court also gains a dominant emotion that it is also tied to.
Our first court, Spring, is tied to Desire. The court is about rejuvination, and to act as if you are still alive and have something to live for- anything, as long as you desire it, will keep you alive and away from the Keepers. Founded by Mother Susan, she is said to have given her fae-born child (changelings are naturally infertile 4 ) to create the court.
So, Spring is about life, liberty, hope, growth, love, family, beauty and joy. But never forget: Spring is not about good . Everything is about finding the poetic truth behind other's actions, and imbuing every action with poetic truth. They go stealth into groups of people trying to find a short respite of happiness, and give it to them so that the Fae cannot pick them out. And when the True Fae arrive, the monarch throws a party so awesome that the Wild Hunt is repelled and appalled, like the Grinch listening to the songs of Who-ville.
So its not about selfishly going after your own desires- its about bonding with others so that THEY can find their desires with and in you. Selfishness is what defines the Others, say the Lost. If you fail to bring the beauty of desire, in yourself or others, then you are slowly shunned by the court until you are the wallflower that slowly withers.
The imagery of Spring is necessarily classic Romantics: rapier, lance, etc. The rituals are festive. And the emotion is always, always about getting what you want.
The mantle is fairly simple, if slightly underpowered; +1 to Socialize, Ally & Contacts at 1xp per dot, and then a re-roll for the first social roll in an encounter. Spring is given a bonus to initial social scenes, but they don't get anything to keep them strong or reinforce those contacts; Spring is the season of rebirth, not of lasting friendships.
( next time: Summer and probably Autumn)
1 - Collapse of the Byzantine Empire? The end of the Wars of the Rose? Early Renaissance? And how west are we talking: western Europe, all that is west & north of Jerusalem, everything west of India? I'm happy with assuming Anglo-centric, because C:tL is largely Anglo-centric.
2 - Sadly, not every pledge gives you the ability to cast magic, but the rules for making new contracts or courts in Equinox Road involve heavy oaths.
3 - Sun & Moon as well as the Directions are in Winter Masques , and Dusk & Dawn get their own books. The Bhuddist courts never get mentioned.
4 - A factoid that I am eternally thankful for. Pregnancy in tabletop is at turns creepy, misogynistic, and boring.
They often make up in wrath what they want in reason.Original SA post
They often make up in wrath what they want in reason.
So now we're into the Summer Court, which is tied to the emotion of wrath. Like Spring, Summer also wishes to band together, but rather than hosting a soiree, they would prefer a sortie. Founded by Sam Noblood through a long hunt of the season, Summer believes that might is right, blessed be the victors, and damn the consequences. By acting in communal violence and rage, they are empowered and justify their own escapes.
Not to say that every Summer courtier is a warrior; but every summer courtier believes in the war. And if the war isn't present, they become vigilant for other things that go bump in the night and threaten the Fae and their families. Be they primarily social, intellectual, or physical 1 , every courtier must find some object of their Wrath to empower their mantle. In this, you can understand the appeal- they still live in their Wyrd world, despite being as violent as they are. Obviously some things must be fated to happen, right?
Charitable in their anger should you supply a target, Summer court still isn't against bullying and petty feuds. Or blood feuds. And sometimes they get the runts of the litter that cannot decide where they belong, but they still have some standards. If you don't fight- however that fighting may be shaped- then you're better off Courtless.
Their imagery is warlike, murderous, animalistic, and hot. Their rituals are competitive 2 . Their emotion is about the negative side of all competition between people- the emotional darkness that fuels you further and deeper into yourself.
The Summer Mantle provides a bonus to certain willpower expenditures, always-on armor, and even an extra health level. Summer keeps you going, and helps you push over the top in a fight- but they won't keep you alive forever. Summer is the court of violent conflict, not of lasting peace.
( next time: Autumn)
1 - The Summer court even holds contests between themselves and others to show the greatest poet or crafter in the land- because the True Fae strike at such weaknesses in a freehold. So yeah, that Summer guy writing haiku may someday chase off a True Fae, 5/7/5 style.
2 - Though many Changelings are frowned at trying to become professional athletes.
What is fear but a realization of greatness?Original SA post
What is fear but a realization of greatness?
Onto Autumn Court, one of the more loved groups of C:tL. They go for the Occult-monkey "knows too much, don't you wish you were them" pastiche that White Wolf loves so much, and then adds a big dash of just-this-side-of-twee Tim Burton 1 on top. Librarians, Mystics, and damned Wizards go here to research into the depths of the Wyrd. Founded by Clay Ariel through mystic and mysterious means (spooky!), Autumn exists to learn more about Fae magick and turn it against their captors. Without the court of Magic, too many changelings would simply forget that there is a vast mythical land just beyond sight, and waiting to grab them.
Is every Autumn courtier a sorcerer? Probably, as every changeling has some magic. But really, every Autumn courtier is in some way a Wyrd naturalist- attempting to take control of their own life by finding out every nook and cranny of the world they are a part of. Autumn courtiers that fail to take a rationalist stance to their life are eliminated- they are either too crazy or simply incapable of appreciating what the emotion of fear means to them.
This becomes part of the Autumn rituals: the Fallen Fair, a clearinghouse of Wyrd items that acts in contrast to the Goblin Market, where the courtiers put on the mask of being hobgoblins; the "hunt", where autumn courtiers put on the mask of being the Wild Hunt; the scientific affectations, where the changelings pretend to be skeptically-inclined humans and journalists. In each part, the Autumn court is trying to figure out what face is best to put on to get what they want 2
Their imagery is harvest-like reds to yellows and grays and browns. Dying and falling objects, scavenger animals, and Victorian naturalist accoutrements- book, magnifying glass, candles. Their mantle is cliche "magical", and gives some of the weakest bonuses of the mantles in the book; a +1 to "Contract activations that use Occult", +1 to "investigation rolls about True Fae and Faeries", and finally a re-roll of an Occult roll that deals with magic that ISN'T using a power. Autumn, for its guise of power and wisdom, are really posers talking a big game.
( next time: Winter)
1 - Spring lives in a Baz Luhrman movie, Summer lives in a Michael Bay movie, and Winter court lives in a David Cronenberg movie in this metaphor.
2 - which reminds me of the Little Albert Experiment http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hBfnXACsOI using a mask and loud noise to condition a baby to have a phobia.
Never trust tears- weeping is but mawkish falsehood.Original SA post
Finally we're at the end of the Seasonal courts.
Never trust tears- weeping is but mawkish falsehood.
The core concept of the World of Darkness is that all these monsters are just in the shadows of humanity 1 . To keep this lie intact, White Wolf develops groups devoted to maintaining it- in C:tL's case, this is Winter Court. A court of spies and criminals, the Winter court is ultimately a court of survival- personal as well as social. They'll fight, they'll hide, they'll lie cheat and steal. Somehow this deals with Sorrow, the court's emotion.
Founded by Snowflake John by playing a two-year game of hide & seek with the season, Winter court tries its best to fit in to humanity and hide among them so that their silent arrow can strike remorselessly. And yet not every Winter courtier is anonymous- hiding in plain sight as a media-beloved radio jockey is a major tale within the court. In the freehold, Winter courtiers aren't always invisible and unwilling to lend a hand- more than a few talented Winter courtiers put themselves into trouble because, they wager, their skills will lead them and those they follow away from greater sorrow. But really, the Winter Court accepts every changeling fresh from the thorns, at least for a short time enough to be taught how to survive- and to be watched for signs of madness.
Their imagery is stark- whites, blacks, greys and browns with dark greens and blood reds as a color; ranged weapons and hunting animals. Sorrow as an emotion is cathartic when released- but often sits inside until they find their own private place to let it loose.
Their rituals are the Market- again, in contrast to the Goblin Market and to potlatch with the freehold- and the Formal, a masquerade dance that is slightly too reminiscent of awkward school kids trying to break the ice with a punch bowl- and Radio Free Fae, an underground radio ritually created in every freehold to allow dissent and secrets to be proclaimed. Their mantle is boring if useful: a bonus to being noticed casually, but not to be avoid notice specifically that increases as you increase your mantle, and an extra die to lying. Winter's mantle is about hiding by not being noticed, not gaining invisibility and tricking people into believing you.
( next time: the Courtless and more)
1 - Which strains credulity when we're presented demographics that make it seem like there is only Steve, the janitor left to be lied to.
Perhaps we are horribly broken people that cry out for self-definition while we use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house. But on the other hand, fuck you.Original SA post
Perhaps we are horribly broken people that cry out for self-definition while we use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house. But on the other hand, fuck you. 1
We're going to dive into the scant collection of paragraphs about the Courtless on page of 62 of C:tL. I'm going to devote this entire article on the topic because, surprisingly, it forms the crux of the entire gamelines' themes and social structure.
You see, my last five F&F entries have been about explaining why changelings live together in society, as is expected in a White Wolf game. In the older gamelines you had a pack of monolithic secretive nation-states that only barely cooperate and never coincide, and those that were 'unaligned' between them were untrustworthy and strange. C:tL turns that on its head, and is better for it.
As we learned about the seasonal courts, changelings really just drift through them, rather than the stereotypical "member-for-life" frats in other games. Not only do some changelings choose to leave their section of the political system of a freehold, but it is viewed as accepted and even expected for changelings 3 . The Lost come together for support, not dominance; and the game is ultimately about self-definition, not ancient globe-spanning conspiracies.
Each seasonal court gives reasons for why a changeling would want to leave. When they join a new court, it is because they've found a new ethos or goal that drives them because they tire from single-minded devotion to an orthodox concept of their life's purpose. 2 But some choose to leave the political scheme of the seasonal courts altogether, refusing to pledge allegiance to a monarch and/or court of changelings in order to self govern and exchanging power as individuals. Some never join courts, and some recoil after seeing the truths behind the glamour of the crown.
These are the Courtless. They're present, they're pleasant, get used to it.
But why should the game make them accepted, aren't stereotypes awesome? Okay, but look at the ultimate irony of a court mantle: a courtier is both to be one with their emotion, but also is dependent and rewarded by causing that emotion in mortals. Autumn fears others while they make others fear them; Spring desires something, but desires to CAUSE desire as well. Are you wrathful, or are you just being a dick to other people? Are you sad, or are you waiting to cause someone else's sadness?
And then there is the schizophrenic way that the courts are described as operating. Summer's modus operandi is far more military than angry; Winter's style is much more uber-paranoia than depressed. The Autumn court is a group of academics, not monsters. 4 And Spring is an Andy Warhol-esque artist's collective of romantics with causes to support. No matter how you slice it, the system isn't perfect and a product of the habits of the designers. But this isn't just picking nits with the setting 5 .
No, its really a fantastic commentary. White Wolf, to its fault, works with pop psychology 6 such as the Five Stages of Grief. Its really quite simple: Spring is presented first, onward to Summer then Autumn and then Winter. Translate that back into the 'diagnostic tool 7 ': Desire is a form of Trauma Denial, Wrath is a form of Anger, Fear- especially as portrayed in Autumn- is a form of Bargaining, and Sorrow is obviously a form of Depression. And last in the list of the Five Stages of Grief is acceptance , which is, linearly, the Courtless.
The Courtless make up a sixth to a seventh of the "average demographic" of a freehold. Not all wrathful people compete, not all fearful people study, not all sorrowful people keep their feelings to themselves, not all of those that desire wish to hold parties likes its 1999 8 . And honestly, they're better for it, having accepted that a bad thing happened without dwelling on it. They may dwell within a freehold and are empowered by fae magick, but the Courtless are those that stretch between sides, acting as a plebian commoner class that acts in counter to the deprivations of the rule of the Wyrd-empowered seasonal courtiers. They act as unions and places for the common fae to be heard and respected- treated like a person once more rather than a collection of stereotypes.
But, without rituals and the protective mantle to chase the True Fae away....
The Wild Hunt gathers the courtless like little bunny foo foo. By and large, self respect means little in the face of what wants to take you, screaming & babbling, through the soul-tearing thorns for a second time. 9 What does not kill you makes you Wyrd.
( next time: the threats to to Fae)
1 - I love you Syrg
2 - Remember this for when we get into Entitlements later.
3 - Supported enough that there are even rules written later for this very choice.
4 - Most of this is because The Werewolf and The Gaurdians of the Veil (and The Mysterium, for those counting at home) are popular White Wolf tropes more than anything.
5 - The Wyrd operates on cliche and cultural expectation. Being 'gamey' is sorta the point.
6 - ref: the Alpha-wolf pack dynamics of Werewolf, the product of researchers observing angry isolated unfamiliar wolves being held in active and abusive captivity and expounding breathlessly.
7 - Which has less predictive power than a fuzzy-speaking horoscope, if you care to know.
8 - Prince isn't a changeling. Michael Jackson (post-Pepsi accident) is a fetch.
9 - RAW, changelings never escape a second time if they don't return by choice.
AntagonistesOriginal SA post
Mors shamed me into going back and re-writing my last entry. Jesus Christ.
That dopplegangers that the True Fae left in your place. The baby that your momma killed for being 'wrong'. The daughter that 'went wild' during her teens. The boyfriend that used to love me.
A fetch is a fake person. They don't know it, but its true- your magic friends told you so. And its your face, not that you have that face any more. Its yours, reclaim your face.
They have their own secret magic that only the Keepers have access to. Anyone could be a fetch without you knowing it, spying on you for one of the Gentry. Unless you try to make a pledge and it falls through, you can never really know.
But no fetch starts Wyrd. They snap, realizing that they are fake and have to escape from the faeries that are coming to ruin its life. Did you come back the successful doctor that your fetch was? Do you remember your young child's first words?
The True Fae
Those people are not like you and me, Wayne. They got strange cares and unbound powers, like vindictive genies. They aren't mad, in a way; they just only consider their own story and how it fits together- everything else is just yadda yadda yadda.
They live according to their own rules, and are so very familiar on purpose . They live to fulfill your expectations, explaining why good things happen to bad people and vice versa, and where the farm with all the other dogs was when Spot got too old to play. Its immature to need them to explain why everything works, and they like that. 1 A Fair Folk changes its skin, its habits, and its territory on a whim. A name and mythos is just a temp job meant to serve the need of fate.
Does every Gentry kidnap? Those that are Keepers operate differently, seemingly uncaring about their charges but then desperate for their return. And when a changeling becomes powerful, they become a target.
Yet not every Gentry can return to Arcadia; there are the Banished, those that live outside, a shadow of themselves kept out of the hedge by oath-magick. They want to, and perhaps a nice little Fae may be their ticket back. Could you return my comb to my house tonight, deary?
All return broken, but some return owned. Many come with secret dreams of darkness, few trundled the easy path out of Arcadia.
A loyalist isn't always a sleeper agent- sometimes they are desperate changelings who, for some reason, sell out their comrades to the most powerful beings in their lives. Maybe, instead of just taking a soul back, they made a deal- a single person a year, or you'll be back to your durance.
No matter. Its all about what entertains The Others in the end.
Sometimes a changeling goes crazy- either they lost their clarity, their soul, or both. Either way, they're not to be trifled with. Put them down or save them if you can, but don't trust them. Every dirty hobo has a story: do you think its real, or just there to keep you around?
Maybe, just maybe, the best answer to the True Fae is to kill the hedge and destroy all Wyrd. Can't hurt to mow the lawn every once in a while, right?
Vampires and Werewolves exist? Are you sure they're not just odd changelings? Wyrd, huh? Some mortals even want to ask you about "Arcadia"- better to call it Wonderland or Narnia, in that case. A name is a name, don't we know? Just because a True Fae said it doesn't mean its the Truth, idiot.
These are the few mentioned threats against the Fae. They all are potential enemies- meaning everyone you meet is a potential enemy. Pledge yourself for safety, or be destroyed by those that won't.
pg70-71 gives us a nice picture of a wolf-person climbing a wall, and then a short fiction. Not every changeling remembers what they are doing, and a fugue state is an all-to-common response to the madness that takes hold. You're not yourself, bucko, but rather a piece of literal Fate using you to play-act the course of the universe. Might as well have fun while you're at it.
( next time: character creation. Give me suggestions.)
1 - Your questions and complaints only feed them, Spergy McSupernerd.
Don't worry about meeting a platonic ideal right now, you need some place to grow.Original SA post
Don't worry about meeting a platonic ideal right now, you need some place to grow.
Chapter 2 of the C:tL corebook opens with a quote from The Island of Dr. Moreau , poetically imagining that every person walking down the street is, somehow, a metaphoric creature. When you take a step back, people often attempt to live up to certain images of themselves- the entire fashion industry rolls on these concepts. This is the purpose of character creation- the challenges you face are largely arbitrary (if not god-like), and so attempting to scale that mountain is hardly the point. The game is, after-all, about self-empowerment through inter-personal growth- and not murderhobos.
The next few columns are the same numberwang spiel you've seen in any other White Wolf product. However, C:tL is built to give a player much more freedom than other splats: there is no pressure to give your character traits that a basic bougie american should have. Not every changeling remembers- or was taught- how to drive, or how to use computers, or how to tell a lie, and so you can create a far more 'twinked' character sheet than is at first blush acceptable. Further, a well-established feature of the True Fae is their love of the exceptional- your talent is hardly a virtue (ha ha dark irony indeed). So making a character with brute strength or exceptional knowledge of, say, surviving in a desert is hardly a stretch.
But again with the big stop sign on character creation: no adolescent characters, no characters from more than 50 years ago 1 . You are playing a character than has something to return to from Arcadia, not to escape into the fairyland to live inside your make-believe story.
The Changeling Template gives you very little compared to other White Wolf splats: a free skill specialty in Athletics, Brawl or Stealth 2 that corresponds to your escape from Arcadia, rather than bumping up a resistance trait or what-have-you. When it comes to being a human, changelings are hardly better than a normal mortal. This is not a game about diving into the secrets of the multiverse or perfecting yourself into the ultimate killing machine or becoming king turd of shit mountain... so why are you asking for what amounts to a gamist 'free xp bump' for nothing?
The rest is what I am going to gloss over by describing it as the 'basic nWoD design'. Having been fairly late in the line's life, there is something more unique in that there are 24 different combinations (6x4) rather than 25 (from a 5x5)... but I feel like the evocative nature of the Courts (and the unspoken fifth court) keeps things much more alive.
Another special note here is that the specific magik powers known as Contracts (which we'll go into later) also allow players to justify getting a one-dot clause of a Goblin contract with your starting dots... which is strange if you consider your character being a fresh-from-the-thorns changeling, as they are specifically contracts found at the Goblin Market. Huh.
And another, buried at the end of the usually skippable Virtue and Vices section: a changeling's willpower has half as much to do with what is 'normal'- especially for changelings of low Clarity- as with your Wyrd-tinged life. While the book makes pains to note that you don't deserve Willpower refreshes for being virtueous or viceful regarding your Arcadian "truth", I find it more fun to dole out willpower for it anyway when I'm playing more gonzo hedge-filled games.
Pages 76-77 is the splash-page of easy-to-index statmunching. Special note: Wyrd is very expensive compared to most other things, and contracts can be just as expensive as becoming a genius or a body-builder. Mortal skill is, afterall, hardly a challenge compared to the blissful fae.
The next section of the book concerns the Prelude : that beginning-of-the-Bond-movie element of storytelling that sets the rest of the campaign forward. Rather than being handwaved like so many other 'adventurers in a tavern' stories, C:tL is built to bring the players together despite however many special snowflakes have to be crammed into the same campaign.
Thankfully because of the flexible nature of time in the hedge, you're even given explicit license to weave each part of your preamble without regard to cause and effect. You can run a character's escape with Tom Dick and Harry before you even, as a player, know how you were taken... or you can escape so fuzzily that you're not entirely sure how it happened 3 .
Your name is your name . I've gamed with a 'nameless wonder' and its maddening to begin with, but because of the nature of the Wyrd, you're given much more license to go HAM into your folklore rather than Big McLargehuge or Frank Yeoman. Being TOO special snowflake, however, can result in the wrong kind of attention (because it just might be the name of a Keeper, strumming the string of the vast spider-web of Fate). So Damiens, Mega-Mans, and The Crow v2 need not apply (if the ST is feeling titchy)
The example given of character creation is of a character built for the in-book campaign setting of Miami with its Eternal Summer King: Jack Tallow, Elemental Fireheart of Summer and social crusader. As an old hand, it feels like he was twinking as a cross-Fairest with your basic 3 defense and decent Magick tricks involving that most loved of elements: fire. I understand why the section exists, but I would personally pay for my 3rd copy to be a special-edition that cuts it out because its two and a half mostly-worthless pages 4 .
Next time: the three unique flavors of Changeling
1 - Personally I fudge the 50 years to pre-WWII, but I definitely understand why some people might want to avoid having characters from before the Civil Rights era.
2 - I used to give people leeway at deciding a different skill specialty, but I've come to believe that anything else doesn't jive with the visceral truth of having fight/run/sneak the fuck out of there .
3 - To play up the dream-like quality of Faerie, C:tL even tells you to ignore all logic and play with rules and objects outside of the regular gameplay and kill people off ignobly and then bring them back. Done well, sure... but I'd say to try and play loose with reality, not as a chance to run your dick through Pissforest at the player's expense.
4 - Its only worth it to see another case of WW's personal view of what Status, Contacts and Specialties are to use as Canon Law for later arguments...
The inner fire of the faerie is from it having no soul to scarOriginal SA post
The inner fire of the faerie is from it having no soul to scar
C:tL takes the player's expectations of a nWoD system and uses what makes it unique as a way to further express its core themes.
There is a strong theme of your super-special inner magic not actually allowing you to become that much more potent. Like all nWoD systems, there is a core 'power stat' that ascends linearly, one to ten, that represents your personal, unalterable 'magic engine' through which all your mutant powers key off of.
However in C:tL, the essential hypocrisy of the gameline is that all changelings escaped from the land of the Wyrd, known commonly as Arcadia, in order to become more human. But the Wyrd, as the power-stat is known, is described as an alien force that separates you from your mortal experience. Which each incremental improvement of your hoodoo force, you become more distant from what anchors you away from the True Fae.
As you 'level up', your emotions become greater, in what I would call borderline personality 1 , acting wildly inappropriate to what is normal. The Mask that prevents humans from seeing your antlers and lightning-spark eyes begins to slip. And even at night, your dreams of your durance become more vivid, the memories all the more real.
But fuck yeah, superpowers, amirite?
Mechanically, a Wyrd score acts as a numerical limit to the game mechanics. You can only spend X glamor per turn 2 , you can only carry X Goblin Fruits in the mortal world (later), live an extra X years longer than a regular mortal, and you can only agree to X 'vow' pledges at a time-
In the book, it describes the changeling being release-able from an existing vow, which is... difficult to explain away. When it comes up, I'll explain the differences.
And in one of the most minor parts of a benefit, you gain X bonus to "remembering or interpreting dreams". This is buried near the end of the non-mechanical bullet point describing how much 'Arcadia memories' you remember per tranche of your Wyrd. Its a very non-mechanical section which leads to it getting glazed over by even the most specific lore-nerds of C:tL. Dreams are a huge part of Changeling- easily a third of the 'playgrounds' within the game, but sadly it doesn't say "+Wyrd to Investigation rolls for crappy ST riddle-solving" soooooooo
An important element to gaining higher Wyrd is the ability to 1- become a being of myth in the realm of strength/smarts/looks than a human 2- Incite Bedlam, a game mechanic that nearly never gets used, and for good reason.
Incite Bedlam is an overly-complex device used as a 'soft mind control'. If anyone has experience with Vampire, you understand how 'soft' is really code for 'unregulated'. You can only drive people towards one of the core Seasonal Court emotions 3 . Effectively, it is a classic Charm Person that can affect seven or more people at once, and it gets copied equally by other Contracts and abilities later, other than being supposed to only create 'wild and unrestricted emotion' rather than an gentle nudge. It also works on the closest first, including targeting allies, and it is essentially a big red "fuck you" button that works unpredictably- it even describes it as being a bad idea to give Anger to your enemies.
Strangely, it is solely a Wyrd phenomena, but works strictly according to the Seasonal Courts.
On the negative side, which for Changelings is always the deeper cut, your Wyrd score also acts as an easily-dilineated "how attractive am I" meter to the True Fae. At six or higher, you're a minor celebrity or up-and-comer to whom Arcadian Intrigues are attracted like a magnet. To quote from the book, "as with all things related to the Others, the Storyteller has control over how this mechanic manifests during play." Because True Fae are not supposed to be fully-stated dragons, dipshit.
Your changeling's body does not respond easily to the alterations of the Wyrd. You gain Frailties , taboos and banes straight from the storybook than can easily cripple a character, or even kill them, should it be sufficiently lethal or prevalent. In a game where prophecy, nightmares, and truth-telling are major components, hiding a Frailty is nearly impossible...
So of course, there are also mechanics for decreasing your Wyrd, which could be summarized as quitting Wyrd magick 'cold turkey' like its an addiction. The parallels are even more obvious when it mentions how greater Wyrds require longer abstinences, and also when considering what is:
Its more than just an odd spelling, it is what C:tL calls the nWoD system's "mana". The gas or blood for Wyrd magic, Glamour is described as energy both separate and equivalent to the Wyrd from Arcadia. But the Others are only but artisans of Glamour- they require a harvest of mortals to fuel them; specifically, the harvest of primal emotion.
To a changeling, the harvest of Glamour is explicitly described as emotionally addicting- and even physically to changelings of even greater Wyrd (one lethal a day, unhealable, until a new 'fix' of glamour).
If you've played in a nWoD game, you understand how Glamor 'points' are used. Special mention is deserved for the Mask, however: you can strengthen the Mask to the point that even your fellow Fae cannot see your Mein by sight while in the real world (although they can via your shadow), and if you choose to dump your entire pool to drop the mask, like a fantastic magic trick for any mortal passer-by.
So then, it is in the Harvesting with which C:tL makes its mark.
harvest directly from their own kind. True Fae, Hobgoblins, and fellow Changelings cannot grant another 'free' Glamour- and even including other mortals ensconced by Incite Bedlam
A Changeling can harvest a mortal's
emotions using whatever Attribute + Skill roll that would be appropriate to the situation. Composure + Empathy to be a shoulder to cry on would generate Glamour = to successes.
That 'harvest' dice-roll is modified up or down by the ST for 'shallow' or 'deep' emotions, or having multiple changelings in on the harvest.
Beware the actively deranged, as they may trigger your own madness.
Your Court Mantle actively rewards you with a greater prize for your harvest if it is of your court's emotion.
Another alternative is within a mortal's Dreams. Dreams are harder to get into, requiring magic via Contracts or specific Pledges. However they also give you a greater roll- adding your Wyrd 'dream bonus' to the similar "whatever skill makes it work symbolically".
The third alternative is through the bounty of a mortal's pledge. Fulfilling promises, therefore, gives a changeling glamour. Again, what specifically gets you your glamour is specific to what you first initially decide is your 'method'. Pledges are more described later in the book.
Finally, you can harvest glamour from within the hedge, doing actions that consume strange items that are colloquially known as 'goblin fruit'. The paragraph makes pains to note that not all glamour is within strictly vegetation- rather it is in the act of 'consumption', however poetically achieved, that creates the empowerment within the changeling.
And so I'm going to wrap up this entry of F&F with a summation of why this the unique nature of Glamour makes C:tL The Best Game. In other splats, the mechanics for getting your omfph are all-to-often specific and arbitrary and confined by the pre-written fictions of the story- some of which are fairly dark and twisted and involve some sort of blood sacrifice. For all the comments about how 'dark' a game this era's Changeling is, it does its best to get out of its own way by letting players make their own darkness . Glamour is explicitly dynamic, emotional, allegorical, and most of all personal. It pushes players to self-express rather than duck your head down and follow according to the stereotypes unthinkingly.
C:tL is a game about your characters finding a form of empowerment via self-definition and, strangely enough, requires the players to self-express about what they want their characters to be. The Best Splat.
Next time: I get to the third flavor, the most depressing one.
1 - The entire game can be seen through this lens if you so prefer.
2 - This starts to matter when we get to Contracts later.
3 - Despite there being an additional eight courts, each with their own court emotion, later in the game's life! The gameline (wisely) drops the entire Incite Bedlam mechanic like a bad habit.
4 - There is an interesting debate to be had regarding fetches, as to whether a changeling can harvest their glamour and whether that indicates an essential 'soul' that was given to them by the Keeper from a piece shorn from the human it stole.
5 - Including other splats, with their own suggested quirks from the rule book: vampires only ever give 1 point, mages are oddly aware but otherwise human, Werewolves give double from anger with a price, and Promethans feel... oddly second-hand.
Where the morals are made up and the ethics don't matterOriginal SA post
Where the morals are made up and the ethics don't matter
Being a changeling, you are defined by having escaped your Keeper's durance to return to the mortal world. Caught between these two defining poles of existence, you play within a game of 'Beautiful Madness' where your Clarity- that which defines your ability to stay sane in an insane world.
Despite there being no real mechanical emphasis, a changeling's Clarity is what allows the character to tell the difference between the Hedge and the real world, magic and physics, dream-thoughts and mortal truths. The Changeling is described as beginning to falsely perceive fae creatures in the grocery store or mortal concerns while in the thorns. Because this deals with perception, there is more pressure on the ST to play this up, as they are the vehicles for the character's understanding 1 .
Yes, C:tL is a White Wolf game, and the major game conceit within the nWoD is the morality system: characters are given a Hit-Point like singular number that begins at a stable point and lowers until it drops to 0, at which point your character is essentially 'dead' for playing purposes.
As part of the system, you are given a codified chart of 'breaking points' that represent a morality play's slide towards inhumanity. In this chart, you are given a fairly unfair listing of commandments. Of all the splats, C:tL is one of the only games to have as its core understanding that your Clarity can be attacked without it ever having been the action of the player 2 . Along with the easily-understood collection of "don't be a sick twisted freak" you have elements of 'life changes' that could mean pregnancy, losing a home to fire, or getting promoted at work at the higher points.
What does that mean for the game? It means that the game doesn't shroud the ST with deniability when it comes to having shitty things happen to the characters outside of what is understood as 'fair play' 3 . All of the actions have in-game mechanical consequences, and so it forces STs to leaden every cheap premise-threat of stealing a car or killing an NPC with importance- or else you're just creating more dice-rolling work than is necessary AND doing a shitty job.
In play, these breaking points are always a factor to consider: you cannot excuse yourself from consequences merely for adhering to your 'shtick' of Vices- because Clarity represents not a simplistic understanding of 'goodness' as being a set of morals held dear, but rather a strong history of stability (right or wrong!) that represents a clear understanding of the difference between mortal and fae.
One special point brought up is that Kidnapping, being the defining tool of a Keeper, is especially heinous. Comparatively, this is one of those actions that is so uncontroversial to most PCs of other games that players hardly understand the difference between games until it becomes apparent. Holding someone against their will, especially when it explicitly involves moving them from 'their' space into another, is a core element of human society and stories that changelings simply do not do.
Speaking of the human/changeling divide, another point is that murder of a changeling/fetch is merely a class 5 sin, while killing a human is a class 2. Because to a changeling, people with souls are more important than those without them. This means that even playable characters have a much easier time killing their fellow citizens... but as above, have a hard time justifying imprisonment. Its easier to justify murder than arrest in a Freehold.
There are other comparative differences between splats, but without the games in front of me, the only one that feels important to note is that violence is a much 'higher' sin, and psychotropic drugs are called out specifically as being dangerous to your Clarity, as is casting magic or dropping the mask in front of mortals, both at what would be considered fairly 'high' points on the scale (7 and 6)
So what mechanical emphasis does exist for Clarity? Dropping down does make you develop 'derangements', some of which are quite devastating to a character when they become personal anchors such as alcohol addiction or paranoia. At the higher levels, you gain a +2 to perception versus a 1 to 3 die penalty while your Clarity begins to slip. Further, at only level 6 or higher can you tell whether there is a supernatural presence in the area- and otherwise a slickly disguised object (that is otherwise not being supernaturally obscured) is impossible to pick out from the changeling's surroundings 4 .
If you want to avoid those penalties, despite them being fairly tame 5 , the game describes an important element of self-definition and stability as being the tools to regain your Clarity. The self-image of a changeling is something that must always be fought for and defined- as such, the only way to raise your score is by spending XP points.
Next time: A discussion of merits
1 - This often means that the impact of having a lower clarity is dependant game-to-game and plot-to-plot as to what exactly it entails.
2 - Ignoring the well-known "paladin falls" morality trick questions.
3 - I will admit that this can lead to expectations in the same shade as olden D&D era wizards being considered 'too weak' to have a goblin swing a sword at them.
4 - Winter court uses this fact to hide from their fellow fae in the mortal world once they empower their Mask with glamour. If you've only ever seen Antler Sparks the fae, you'll miss Mary Smith walking down the street.
5 - Later, there are specific other penalties that having low clarity comes into play; I believe this is the result of the authors/designers feeling like the Madness part of the game was getting ignored in exchange for the Beautiful element.
Paint yourself with all the colors of the black-dot rainbowOriginal SA post
Paint yourself with all the colors of the black-dot rainbow
The last two entries have been bordering on overwrought 1 , so I'm going to take the next five pages of changeling-specific merits in a much more breezy trot.
The first paragraph goes over the merits that are in the nWoD corebook and how they can be applied to C:tL. Mental merits that would allow you to keep track of the sort of mundane concerns that are below the Fair Folk are attractive. Physical Merits such as Giant can be great ways to detail the changes that occurred over your durance 2 . Social merits of individual quality such as Striking Looks is, much like Giant, a good touch of detail- but many are hard to justify as having come straight from the thorns.
Onto the unique merits, and our first is a doozy: Mantle
Another in the long of divergences from the base WOD splat assumptions, Court Mantle is an explicitly magical empowerment as well as a social-in-group rating for the courts; mechanically this means that each dot not only adds to your dicepool for social rolls within your court, it also acts as the core stat for your in-court Contracts as well as your access for them. We'll get into this further within the book, but a high mantle means you're able to purchase the court's contracts of up to one higher than your mantle rating.
Stylistically, mantle serves a dual purpose within the freehold: it is both a form of social status separate from day-to-day politics (e.g. a softer status given to a well-respected religious leader) and also the major jockeying point between rivals within the same court. A mantle also gives a player near-infinite descriptive potential to describe just how awesome they are within their Court; a high-mantled courtier can describe winter frost crawling upon glass, invisible to the eye of mortals, that while not mechanically impactful represents how far the game is built towards self-definition. To live by the court ideal in action is meant to reward the changeling with further power.
Court Goodwill . This merit is a named merit specific to each different court within your freehold (excluding the courtless), and represents a sort of "soft power" you wield from outside the court. Mechanically, it acts as a +1 to social rolls per every 2 dots, and also works as a qualifier for those Court's contracts, much like a stunted form of Court Mantle,
Emphasis on the SOFT power, there; a character can snub a character to avoid the die bonus applying- however this can result in a slipping of your own Mantle if the snub is not somehow justified, as your own court's bonhomie slides. Mantle, just like Court Goodwill, is partly a social construct and partly a mystical one- no court is an island 3 .
At this point I'll bring up the special rules I mentioned back when I was describing the courtless: any changeling may change courts, for any reason, and exchange half, rounded down, of their Court Goodwill dots into Court Mantle dots and vice versa. Changelings are explicitly accepted for traveling within the courts to find themselves and their role within the universe.
I'll also go into the mention of the Court Crown- the symbol of leadership that represents that the changeling so laden is the great leader of the Freehold. The method of the Wyrd in choosing its head is as arbitrary as the storyteller makes it: the basic assumption is a common leader emerges amongst a court during its season- but off-season rulers, democratically elected leaders, singular court dominance, or a leader of a less than maximum mantle rating are all acceptable to the Wyrd. Whatever makes for a better game.
Of the crowns:
Spring spends willpower to increase someone's (or self's) harvest rolls
Summer spends glamour to increase initiative within combat (especially duels) and is never surprised
Autumn gains glamour via gaining or ruminating upon knowledge
Winter may spend glamour to gain Willpower and has their WP cap increased
Relatively uninspiring in the whiz-bang department, they also give strong weight to what each king/queen is to be doing- blessing, dueling, discovering, surviving.
Harvest is a broken merit; it acts as a basic numberwang bonus to rolls to acquire glamour in a open-ended form. Three of those mentioned- Dreams, Emotion, and Goblin Fruit- use rolls. The fourth, Pledges, does not technically have a roll. Whoops!
Hollows is where we get interesting; these are hidey-holes inside the hedge that you personally own and control through unnamed fae magick & gardening. Mystic castles such as Camelot that don't involve terrible abuses are likely Hollows. Games can be run solely circling around a network of Hollows within the freehold: as the bastions of changeling safety and adhering to no natural law other than the Wyrd, they are the vehicles for creative plotting and self-expression. They don't exist in the real world, so players don't have to always justify their existence further than a simple "I did it", versus what is always a long and drawn-out procedure regarding vampire/werewolf/mage locations. By being unbounded by all but the narrative, the game is more free- pretty cool, huh?
As a 'safe space' merit, you have four riders-
Size - More dots = more 'rooms'; one of the more liberally ignored merits, considering this IS an area outside of space and time.
Amenities - Even more ignorable if you don't enforce it or give it mechanical weight. Fae Armory and medical services? Sure! But remember, they only exist within the hollow.
Wards - a floating penalty to finding or breaking into the hollow, and a +1 per dot to initiative for all those inside the hollow against intruders. This works on either side of the Fae/Mortal divide.
Door - Much more interesting to speak of. As built, a hollow has two entrances "free"- one into the mortal world from anywhere with a gate-like edifice, the other into the wild Hedge- that can be also deleted at choice. And then you can create more entrances with each dot purchased, no matter how far apart these doors are from each-other
A classic merit that gets stolen by every non-Changeling LARP, it represents the mechanical 'weight' of such an effect that goes beyond a riding "spend resources to ignore issues X, Y, Z" 5 . A one/two/four merit that is only vaguely discriminated between, roughly a tissue/paper/rock delineation. Can be purchased multiple times.
For a game that starts Step 1 as people that have no mortal identity to return to, a very necessary merit.
Solely represents magical artifacts brought with you from Arcadia, as typically Tokens do not require XP to acquire (unless they do because, as is subtextually stated, the ST is making a promise not to steal it then). Rated 1-5, and also can be used as dots to purchase 'trifles' of the more single-use-potion variety.
Next time: A race/class to be finished!
1 - In my defense, I really love Changeling
2 - A kid that comes back huge is a great piece of character-building angst for what is normally a straight numberwang stat-bonus.
3 - Yes, to the Wyrd friendship is magic.
4 - At this point its open to interpretation whether a hollow door can be located into another hollow. Arguments about 'nesting' hollows, ugh.
5 - I've heard enough people complain that Resources Should Buy Everything that to stock answer is that it seems fair to ask for XP for something so important and irreplaceable (try coming back from being a lying fake person sometime) when so few things impact your character's bank account such as buying a new set of pearl-handled pistols for every endeavor.
Heros? Ha! We don't cut ourselves and call it a costumeOriginal SA post
Heros? Ha! We don't cut ourselves and call it a costume
Scars are a major thematic push of Changeling: the Lost. Rather than indulging in the more trite elements of pre-pubescent empowerment, the game emphasises in the first three paragraphs that Arcadia is not kind, you have escaped, and it is up to you to make that important.
There is a touch of the less-savory when you compare what is written in the game book versus what is known and expressed about real survivors of abuse. In C:tL, the Durance works according to the cliche 1 of your Keeper having 'imprinted' his essence into the changeling becomes part of the story of the game. And to emphasize, C:tL is a game first and foremost; its purpose is to allow the players to enforce freedom to be in itself valuable- and to ensure that it is, they make that very same freedom be something that is a source of conflict and doubt.
In this, each changeling that escapes their Keeper is roughly sized within a Seeming that is unique to the player that plays it. Seemings are not 'family', but they are relations. More than just the inherent life-story of having been taken and having escaped, the powers and restrictions of the fae are similar enough to provide a sense of fraternity that each changeling can react to as they will.
The Gentry are not predictable factories of rubber-stamped creations. Each changeling that escapes from the thorns is essentially unique in their creation and reaction to their Durance; there is no inherent seeming to each Keeper, but there is a inherent seeming to each Durance- that of the Beast, Darkling, Elemental, Fairest, Ogre, and Wizened.
When you know your name, says Autumn, you can know your limitations and your potentials. You can't run away from what happened to you, but you can decide to 'make it your own and to truly grow up' 2 .
Furry fellows, scaly scamps, and feathery folks
1 - And the Wyrd works according to cliches
2 - Direct quote! C:tL is very much a different game from C:tD
Its all instinct and game until someone loses an opposable digit- the BeastsOriginal SA post
Its all instinct and game until someone loses an opposable digit- the Beasts
Each Seeming gets its own four-page spread, in a lime-forest-ivy green background and a drop-shadow symbol to go with the scare-font title. This big-budget treatment of what is traditionally just another paragraph in other systems makes the following twenty-four pages into something you revisit for inspiration and guidance, again and again and again.
The section starts with a fairy tale to describe the mindset of the Beasts. But it isn't a cliche 'darker version of the Grimm classic' that tries to make the fae 'cool'. By inference and re-framing of the major beats through the game's conceits, the story becomes one of horror one that you'd never take part.
Beasts plum the werewolf thing pretty hard- pulled between two worlds, native in neither etc etc. But instead of American South revanchism combined with noble savage orientalism, you're just trying to live your life as the seeming that "had the most difficult road back through the Hedge" 1 . I feel that the gameplay benefits from the de-emphasis of the alpha-ego culture.
Another reason the game differs from Werewolf is that players are allowed to pull from the entire Darwin catalog. Fish to fowl, prey to predator, every snowflake is permitted. Of course it is a good idea to reward players who draw from more mythic origins, but in a game of odd people there isn't much reason to limit them by anything but mechanics.
Beasts gain 8-agains with Animal-Ken, and a free spec in a single species (typically the one they most represent, but interesting concepts exist with parasite-host and herd-shepherd dynamics). To further empower the Beasts as social creatures, they may also spend glamour on non-Manipulation social attribute pools 2 . The curse is significant, if not something you can easily build around, of simply not being good at using skills in the mental part of the game. Beast Doctors and such exist, but you'll be annoyed when it comes up.
Then you get a eight-person line-up with the kiths shown. Beast kiths, to make up for the fact that each one is already appealing to the cat-ear crowd, are pretty lame. 3
A list Kiths and their blessing:
Broadback: Stamina rolls (when do those matter?)
Hunterheart: go-to Combat Kith
Runnerswift: When does footspeed matter?
Skitterskulk: The core of a whacky Defense-build built around Fencing. But you'd have to use fighting styles then...
Steepscrambler: When does climbing matter?
Swimmerskin: the required water-based kith
Venombite: uses the Toxicity rules.
Windwing: its not flying, it is falling with style! Basically featherfall for one glamour.
And the stereotypes list is magical, and you should go out of your way to find them.
THE SHADOW KNOWS
1 - Hint: every seeming thinks that it had it the hardest
2 - If it wasn't for the fact that glamour was the single easiest fuel to gather and store, I'd say this special ability is completely underpowered. As is, I'd say its not as impactful unless you have a pass/fail that requires a single roll, such as detection or seduction.
3 - The story of the seeming. Built-in appeal means less mechanical 'love' to otherwise drive nerds to them.
Creepy crawling in my skin- the DarklingsOriginal SA post
Creepy crawling in my skin- the Darklings
Just as nicely laid out as the previous member of the alphabetically ordered seemings, the Darklings have a vector-drawn maggot with bat wings (in comparison to a neo-pagan horned god of the Beasts). But to be honest, the Darklings are the 10th grade rushed homework of all the seemings. The typesize is almost 150% the size as it was before, and the column inches are occupied by much more art than text. 1
And again to be honest, the Darklings are the least iconic seeming. Their unified 'shtick' is one of having dug too deep, and too greedily into that which should not be known. Rather than a unified shape or type, the Darklings are citizens of Tim Burton's halloween town. A pack of liars and scuttlers, they receive a blessing of being able to pump their stealth and subterfuge 2 , as well as 9-agains for the former and another attribute font for glamour (this time being Wits).
But despite being a fairly underwhelming blessing, they have the least impactful curse, depending on the way a storyteller runs. As they are essentially born from the same twee mindspace as vampires, they have a comparable weakness to sunlight; but rather than being damaged, they are rather merely penalized at using magic during "daylight hours" 3 and especially in view of the sun.
Darkling kiths are, compared to Beasts, much more iconic and unique. Rather than trying to be a catch-all for any single creature on the planet, Darklings are leveraged into being interesting archetypes just by their kith:
Antiquarian: go-to researchers and searchers in dark and dusty libraries. Encyclopedic Knowledge bonus/access.
Gravewight: if your game cares about ghosts, this is the kith to choose... but it doesn't give any power over the ghosts, and ghosts are somewhat wonky as tools or resources in a game
Leechfinger: vampiric healing. Combat utility.
Mirrorskin: 'masters' of disguise. Turtle turtle.
- Tunnelgrub: escapologists, especially things like handcuffs and windows.
Liars and cheats, to a soul. They get better in the later books, but in this book they're underwritten.
Rockstars and wilting violets
1 - This is not unheard of for White Wolf to make a structural addition late into the design; in this, I'd call Darklings the Fate Arcana of C:tL
2 - Both of those skills are much more a critical binary than something like Composure, per se . With Wits being a go-to attribute, Darklings do quite well for themselves.
3 - Remember, time is nearly meaningless inside the hedge, soooooooo
4 - Ghosts don't develop as characters, they just move on Quantum Leap style. So you're only using them as a tools within a plot rather than as plot-devices in themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless, meaningless like mortal. Now if you put mortal in the suit it becomes the suit. Become mortal, my friend.Original SA post
Empty your mind, be formless, meaningless like mortal. Now if you put mortal in the suit it becomes the suit. Become mortal, my friend.
Elementals! Gosh, this section is nicely laid out. Tight, light text that puts the previous entry to shame. The Elemental icon is a flame-cup-gem-root chimera 1 , and the opening fiction contrasts the seeming with every other- whereas other seemings are inspired by a role of humanity, Elementals are inspired by a primal force of nature. Of all the Seemings, they are the most un-human. They take on the look of their force, and often come to represent some outsider legend such as the ifrit.
The background states that the True Fae went out of their way to take you; this means that in contrast, the other seemings are almost accidental and avoidable. Something big wanted you bad, like a Dorthy's tornado. Except this tornado turned you into the house that landed on the witch instead of granting you a token of ruby red slippers.
The seeming blessing of Elementals is that you basically get extra health levels because you are not human anymore. In exchange, you can't really interact with anyone on a social level anymore; penalizing non-seeming contract pools of Manipulation and some basic skills.
Now, I'll mention here that Elemental is pretty much the go-to Seeming for giving to a new roleplayer. By nature, you're a hard-to-kill sperglord with super powerful contracts. Everyone wants to have an Elemental around to talk to because they're just so off-the-wall in their point of view, and the new roleplayer can avoid feeling like they're not "in character" enough 2 .
Now, the Elemental kiths are pretty basic, and cover nearly every pokemon type you can think of.
Airtouched. You go fast for glamour. Fair Escape mechanic, but honestly I'd rather just get a featherfall.
Earthbones. Non-combat strength rolls. Lifting things has never been so easy.
Fireheart. Add...to....Wits rolls? It's very specific understanding of fire, but man is fire not in need of being given a hook.
Manikin. For being a sackboy / pinoccio, you get An Extra Affinity Contract, and also craft things better when you don't know what the hell you're doing. My go-to delete-a-seeming, as they overtake Wizened crafters just by existing.
Snowskin. You're a scary and lying snowbank! Commonly a Winter or Autumn concept.
Waterborn. Your prerequisite "I don't drown" kith. Of all the blessings, yours restricts you to the water the most, which can lead to you being Actually Trapped under the waves!
Woodblood. Plants! The one kith that turns Elementals into two-thirds of the Animal/Vegetable/Mineral triptych. Stealth and Survival, especially when around foliage.
The REAL rockstars and wilting violets
1 - Not that chimera. We get to it later.
2 - The number of times I've heard "Your character is a rock- go!" as the sole bit of roleplaying advice is amazing. As well as how many of those characters evolved into fully-detailed and important members of a freehold.
3 - "Does the hedge count as/act like" is basically a fun fill-in-the-blank game to make a storyteller rip their hair out. Depending on your game, this can make Woodbloods specifically amazingly powerful.
4 - Seriously, I would take the Elemental contract suite against everyone else's, even Ogre.
My beauty may fade, but my impact never willOriginal SA post
I expanded the last entry a bit. Onwards!
My beauty may fade, but my impact never will
Fairests! Another nicely laid-out section that makes the Darkling entry look more and more feeble as we go on. We're in the back-9 of the Seemings now, and so we get into the three more unique selections. While Beasts cleave close to the Gangrel/Werewolfian and Darklings ape Vampires more often than not, Fairests are a very different experience than what you can usually expect out of a WoD game.
The Fairest symbol is a peacock feather. Subtle! The opening fiction-blurb makes it clear that Fairests had the hardest 1 escape through the thorns because their Durance was filled with faerie beauty. Cruelty, violence, passion, ecstasy but never love- and especially not true love- are the tools of their Keeper. Emotional holds are chains in the skin digging as deep as physical ones. But the brush of fae beauty never fades in their dreams, and that same beauty is reflected in their Mien.
Yes, Fairest are the pretty Seeming. They're even mechanically benefited for taking Striking Looks, one of the classic wastes of merit dots of nWoD 2 . Their blessing is their ability to fuel Presence, Manipulation, and Persuasion with Glamour 3 , which makes them one of the more powerful "wizard" Seemings, since Changeling contracts key off of social attributes more often than not.
In exchange, their curse is the most tragic, and yet least hampering, of all the seemings: they fail Clarity checks more often. So a player playing a Fairest either has an expiration date, is more hesitant than most to endanger their sanity, or lives on a happy-crazy medium near the gutter of madness. Everyone told you you'd leave a pretty corpse, after all.
Now, while Fairest are most often a social seeming, the book also makes pains to state that this doesn't make them the leaders of Changelings either. More than a few water-headed Fairest find themselves grasping for power and holding onto it, while others tend to do "their thing" and stick to it no matter what. Either way, they will be the first to tell you that a Fairest was stolen because their talent was undeniable- no matter what the Wizened have to say about it.
The Fairest Kiths tend more toward the powerful side. Just being pretty is a better definition of an Elemental work of art, after all. In fact, some of the most pure combat kiths are in the Fairest section; because flounce like a butterfly, sting like a stab-wound.
Bright One. Combat Kith. You make light, and that light can become blinding.
Dancer. 9-agains to Expression and Socialize when being "agile". A nothing kith.
Draconic. Another combat kith. This time, it lets you be sure you'll hurt someone with a brawling attack when you really, really want to hurt them.
Flowering. 9-agains to the basic social skills because of your enchanting scent.
Muse. One of the more interesting kiths; you give bonuses to mortals to create something on a 2-to-1 basis for Glamour. No drawback, no limit. Just have to find a way to make a mortal work worthwhile.
Fairests, especially Spring Fairests, are the classic "girlfriend" Seeming. You stick her there, she plays pretty princess, and you save her with your gruff and tough Ogre/Beast/Elemental/Wizened/Darkling. Nothing wrong with it, and it is better to have an unstated expectation than having an expectation of a boys-only club. 4
Next: What if Hulk SMASH was the constant, not the climax?
1 - Everyone had it the hardest escaping through the thorns
2 - In compensation of such an act, no Changeling should ever, ever take Direction Sense
3 - In case you didn't notice this is also essentially the Beast Seeming blessing- Changeling is definitely a social-primary game at its heart
4 - Looking at you, the majority of Werewolf
"In Faerie, to become hardened to something is often to become that thing."Original SA post
"In Faerie, to become hardened to something is often to become that thing." 1
The wait is Ogre! Yes, everyone's favorite swole-killbeast-murder male power fantasy is alive and well in this NWoD game. Ogres are the seeming who most often physically overcame their captors and barriers to escape- and most often the seeming that is the most emotionally perverted by the act. The opening fiction is the most explicit in the subtheme of C:tL- that gaining strange wyrd faerie powers does not make you a better person, and often turns you into the monster you were trying to defeat. The symbol of the ogre is a broken door and set of chains- and after all, if you are defined by your chains, you can't ever free yourself from them. You cannot use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house.
With Ogres, the pithy description of C:tL being a game about abuse survivors for abuse survivors is risen from subtext to text. Ogres were taken by monsters, and became monsters to survive- and what is worse is that they often remember this the most. Its also true that an Ogre that escaped was of the most able- as anyone who is able to both survive their Durance and Escape are those of uncommon talent and ability.
So fuck yeah, super powers! Ogres get a lot of them. They add dice per glamour spent on Strength, Brawl, and Intimidation; they are described in appearance as brutish and cruel-looking, even if they may be uncommonly attractive or diminutive. And stubborn, or at least with a sense of self and purpose that doesn't get swayed as often as others would think. Except for being asked not to act.
Yes, the Ogre curse is one that causes a lot of strife and chaos: an Ogre doesn't get 10-agains when rolling with Composure for non-Perception purposes, and are at one less Composure when using it for defense. Which means that they are shitty poker players and the more often to go HAM and ragey because they were called stupid. 2
This doesn't make Ogres inherently impossible to play in a social etiquette-driven game; a failed Composure roll in this game doesn't inherently drive you to do anything like it does for games with inherent rage mechanics. C:tL is a game where the characters get emotion-affecting powers from contracts that Changelings use rather than having their own characters have inherent out-of-control emotion mechanics 3 .
The Ogre Kiths are pretty basic in their hunter-killer theme.
Cyclopean. You get 8-again on Perception rolls using Wits. This is an ironic anti-bonus when Ogres are already non-penalized for perception. Thankfully it isn't 9-again!
Farwalker. 9-agains plus can get a re-roll to Stealth and Survival for a glamour. The former bonus is only good when stacking with the latter bonus.
Gargantuan. You're the Hulk once per day: you gain WYRD EXTRA SIZE for a single glamour and hope you aren't left just about to die by the end of it. A go-to Combat kith for Ogres because there just isn't very many ways to Just Kill Something without damage.
Gristle Grinder. You get an extra damage bite attack when you are in a grapple. This is a fine ability but not really interesting.
Stonebones. A Combat Kith, this time giving you armor equal Wyrd with am equivalently minor penalty to Dex. Because it doesn't stack with Armor you wear, you'll often find this to be less useful than you think it could be.
Water-dweller. Your doesn't-drown kith. They're everywhere in this book.
Next: We finish the Seemings with some ignorable thing that probably never mattered anyway.
1 - Direct quote from the text!
2 - As is the case with Werewolf and Vampire dynamics, when you can't expect everyone to be on their best behavior, people tend to watch what they say more. The games without the "rage" social dynamic- i.e. Mage- ends up with a lot more petty squabbles and name-calling.
3 - There is a optional rule in Rites of Spring that makes emotional-glamour cause a 'drunkeness' of that emotion affect the changeling; while I like it in games, it is still only an option for STs that like the rule rather than being a part of the game's dynamics.
4 - 9-agains are basically useless unless for some reason you can't get a +1 die to a roll.
5 - Later kiths completely obsolete this because of course they do. Gristlegrinders are the M:tG 3-mana 2/2 creature of C:tL kiths
If it weren't for your work, you'd have died a long time ago. - the WizenedOriginal SA post
If it weren't for your work, you'd have died a long time ago. - the Wizened
We finish this section of the book with the Wizened Seeming, from pg 120-123. The chapter has the typical tight text, and the symbol for Wizened is a kobby cane and a smith's hammer. This all just makes the Darkling chapter look less by comparison.
The opening fiction is one of the first of the alien-abduction references. These are always sprinkled throughout the book, but never really escape the confines of the fiction margins in this edition. Changeling 1e is more than happy to make reference to modern myths but still retreat into the romantic fantasy 1 . My one personal gripe is that the stereotypical Changeling game has more to do with Gilliam's the Fisher King than with X-Files, despite the existences of Fetches being really good gristle for a body-snatchers plot.
The Wizened are more unique than the typical cliche White Wolf anti-hero protagonist- especially as they have been crafted to never be a protagonist at all! Their Durance was not matching wits against a Keeper, but of figuring out how to both do their service to their Keeper yet also find an escape. As a metaphor for abuse- parental or economic- the Wizened are much more aligned with the common man than the rage-o-matic Ogre Seeming. The background for a typical taking of a Wizened is that they were simply in "the wrong place at the wrong time", which always invites the question if any Changeling should ever be blamed for their own Durance. 2
Yet the idea of the "mean" in a Victorian sense comes back with a vengeance here. Where it originally meant "average", mean is also spiteful and cruel to their 'betters', and a typical Wizened is not above that. A Wizened is more likely to drive a hard bargain than be free-handed with their work. And never cross a Wizened. 3
This "mean-ness" also comes through in that it means you're smaller, too. Sometimes this means weight, or height, but always in social impact. You always avoid notice, and you're never the person that gets the credit in a crowd. Most Wizened, however, convince themselves that they like it that way.
All said and done, the Seeming blessing of the Wizened is super kitschy. You spend glamour for 9-agains on Dexterity rolls or adding Wyrd to your dodge for a scene. This is one of the weakest blessings, however their curse is also just as impotent; you don't roll 10-agains with Presence, and are additionally punished on UNTRAINED skills. Other than the differences brought by Kiths, a typical Wizened is largely a regular human with Changeling talents.
But lets not ignore the Kiths! Wizened have more Kiths to chose from than most seemings. They are largely very retrograde occupations that don't fit within modern society, and often have older spellings or interpretations. There are no Wizened Computer Programmers 4 .
Artist - Crafter-Kith! 8-agains on crafts and re-roll of the failed dice per glamour; its pretty darn cool, even if it is fuel for the "Wizened are actually social creatures" argument.
Brewer - You Get People Drunk! Magical roofies are totally not gauche, I tell you what!
Chatelaine - Another "social creature" kith, but this time at least it involves etiquette, and also gets around the Curse, which is always very interesting to read. 9-agains and +2 to your Manipulation / Presence while in a formal scenario... and it also doesn't state explicitly that this bonus only counts for social rolls
Chirurgeon - You heal people. One of the million ways to recover from damage really quickly.
Oracle - You... see the future by getting Common Sense for free. Its weird, and its not like actually seeing the future is difficult for Changelings.
Smith - Smiths are
, in that they get extra-special talents later in the book. A +1 to equipment rating (even if only 3 times per item) is nothing to sneeze at.
Soldier - Free Weaponry specialty of "anything with an edge". Its not amazing, but combat kiths gonna combat.
Woodwalker - 8 again and Stealth and Survival, and you can eat plants for food without starving.
Now, here is my soapbox moment. You'll notice that there is definitely more room to grow with Kiths (and even Seemings). And in a game about self-expression, you'll find that most of the time, a player will try to include as many different "colors of crayola" as possible inside their character. Now in Winter Masques you'll find many more ways to expand the box, including cross-kith and dual kith options. But in all honesty, I would encourage you to emphasize as a storyteller and player the purity of a concept first, and a grab-bag of distinct numberwang superpowers second.
There is more than enough room for everyone in the swimming pool without having to attach a +1 bonus to the butterfly stroke to it.
Next time: The crazy-nuts magic list that is Contracts!
1 - Steampunk Changeling isn't even an ironic parody, its part of the text!
2 - A short answer is no. A longer answer is fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck no.
3 - This comes up in a general 'don't invite cruelty' of the Changeling setting, but Wizened-affinity contracts typically have catches that punish people that have welched on a deal.
4 - Or actors or newscasters or professors or tour-guides. Its common to see people backwards-engineer Fairests, but without the Clarity curse, into Wizened.
5 - Just... decide ahead of time if this means that Chatelaines can cast contracts with the bonus. It'll be easier to make the houserule than wait for the eventual argument when someone tries to contest someone else's emotionally-affecting contract.
This agreement to powers to alter reality imparts no liability if said reality-altering ruins your life.Original SA post
This agreement to powers to alter reality imparts no liability if said reality-altering ruins your life. 1
I'm going to start with just going over pg 124 for the Contracts section. For such a short entry, it helps define what Wyrd magic is, and what it isn't. The long and short of it is that magic is not an answer, but it is a way to ensure that what you were meant to do is done. 2 .
It is emphasized in the text that the magic of the Fae are enigmatic and curious. There is no border or cause for fae magic, no why. Like the nature of old, it just IS. This is why they are called Contracts, as they are agreements and bargains struck between the Fae and a feature of the natural world. 3 .
Each contract is its own country, not to be combined or blended with another contract... except for certain contracts in this book that demand you name a type when you sign on- like a Kith for a Seeming. So having a Contract of X doesn't make it cheaper nor does it combine in any way into a Contract of Y, except for when having a Contract of Helvetica X makes it cheaper to buy Contract of Times New Roman X. And then you have to remember that even though every changeling is enslaved to the Wyrd, you still have to note how close your affinity is with the concept- be it via seeming or court. Descriptively, this involves acting in creative ways to become closer with your connection to the concept. Mechanically, it means you might have to spend more XP than others. Except when buying a different type of contract that does the same thing- you get a single XP per clause-to-gain reduction!
Yes, the last paragraph is inherently silly
Yet because you are making a contact with some universal concept, this also means that Contracts are not unique : a single changeling (or small group of changelings) having the sole ownership of a contract just doesn't work. All Contracts are with the Fae nation by being struck with the Wyrd, and so any party- True Fae or Changeling- is able to "me too" onto it if they really, really want to 4 .
Like vampiric disciplines, they are divided into a five-step ladder where each rung is called a Clause. Clauses are written in naturalistic language where the entirety of their rules are self-contained. This, of course, leads to arguments about scope and purpose of Wyrd Contracts, and so you should refer back to pg 124 as your guideline, and decide ahead of time whether anything gives you "true invisibility" short of the power that actually gives you invisibility, or what the meaning of "weaponized form of an element" is. In that case, it should be noted that a Contract is not making you fireproof; you are being protected from harm from Fire itself. This anthropomorphizing is a fine distinction, but it is important to understand the meaning behind the magic. You never get powers yourself, you're always getting in on loan to something bigger and better than you. 5
What makes this antriphomorphization work is the Wyrd, and on a mechanical level, this is represented by the effects of clauses being capped by a changeling's Wyrd score (or the Wyrd's cousin, your Mantle rating ) rather than the number of your successes... except this isn't consistent across the gameline, AND you're almost always adding Wyrd/Mantle to your success roll anyway. 6
And the interest you pay on this loan is Glamour, and sometimes also willpower points. The cost depends on the Clause, but typically the costs rise as you increase your connection to the Contract. Some major contracts cost a butt-ton of Glamour, which entails delaying their use if you don't have the Wyrd score to spend in one turn.
OR you can use the Catch, a form of loop-hole that allows you to avoid paying the...
Okay, turn back our books to page 8 and check the last line of the chapter. This tiny little legal documentation will tell you if you hold a first or second printing of the book in your hand. The differences between the first and second printing is largely just a case of basic errata, mispelled words and missing minor details for certain contracts. HOWEVER, the difference between the first printing and the second printing in this case will change the basic understanding of Catches.
In the first printing, the meeting the requirements of the Catch made the contract free for all costs . In the second edition, having the Catch only reduced the cost of Glamour for the contract to zero.
I'm of the opinion that the "all costs" method is generally more valuable and has a nice side-effect of making Healing (via Eternal Spring 3) a degree cheaper than it would normally be. However, I'm kinda okay with players not dying often if they are in a group with a Spring changeling "that has honestly professed their love (either Familial or Romantic) to them." And of course, as this is a White Wolf game, there are also contracts with no (effective) Glamour cost but do have a Willpower cost. Taking the second printing as your gospel is, however, a very fair choice.
Next time: A smattering of the everyday magic.
1 The use of formal legalism to describe and understand magic is what makes C:tL better than Dreaming's dislike of the "banal". Read Charles Dickens's Bleak House , and not just because it is one of the best 100 books in the english language, because it establishes that the concept of law is one of the greatest and more terrible works of art humanity has ever created.
2 - My subtextual reading is that making extant plots easier to solve is the reward of spending XP on Contracts, in contrast to other systems where magical powers are plot-defining elements themselves. Magic is a crutch, not a requirement.
3 - And the reason there are no Contracts of the Internet are explained-ish later in Equinox Road
4 - So its like V:tR's bloodline disciplines, except the exact opposite!
5 - This distinction is sometimes lost by the writers, but ultimately chemistry majors need not apply their wankery to the Wyrd.
6 - Either way, C:tL ensures that gaining some umpteenmillion success on an extended action roll either doesn't matter or is impossible. 'sup Mage?
That which makes you just as special as everyone else here, chump.Original SA post
That which makes you just as special as everyone else here, chump.
Universal Contracts- they're cheap and they are (comparatively) everywhere! These are the spooky super powers you can expect to run into in every Freehold, and so it also behooves you to expect to have to plan around them existing within every freehold. Some of this means that certain catches are especially dangerous- such as the giving of a True Name.
Now, while I was writing this, I found myself disliking the feeling of writing down the entire body of the rules text as commentary. Instead, I'm going to cruise through the following universal Contracts noting what is interesting and important, leaving the rest for the reader to skim through the text on their own. Unless otherwise mentioned, every Clause of these Contracts uses Wyrd in addition to whatever I mention; you'll note that every universal contract uses an attribute over a skill. and for good reason. Onward!
Contracts of Dream
Contracts of messing around with other people's dreamscape, without having to do that mucky "getting into people's head" part that true oneiromancers deal with. The clauses are basically extra special cheat codes to the dream world... except for the first clause, which works exclusively in the hedge. Huh. 1
Your intelligence tells you a single fact about the hedge based on evidence within line of sight, per success. Gaining an exceptional success means that these facts are not limited by line of sight. But beware, there is a penalty if the the “local hedge” 2 is foreign or strange to you! This is otherwise the go-to "I don't want to die in the hedge" clause, especially as it is cheap and easy to pick up.
Forging the Dream
Using your wits to edit a dream of another in any way as you wish up to the dreamer’s death. A great way to "prime the pump" and create an initial dream-scene for your eventual dive into the subconscious 3 . I enjoy the evocative nature of the penalties/bonuses for how physically and/or emotionally close you are to the dreamer. Its easier to hack a dream of someone you are close with than create nightmares for strangers.
With no effort and perhaps a catch of holding a 'token of a favor from an enemy or one of their “loved ones or family members” 4 , you’ll turn into a Dream-Combat superthug. "You wanna be a fucking dream fighter?" asks the head promoter of mixed dream-based arts, "Then you better get this fucking clause!"
An intelligent person can pull any object that exists within a dream for up to four turns... or indefinitely with an exceptional success. While these objects don't get special powers other than perhaps what their dream-like shape would give them, things that can’t exist and things that are incredibly specific are mer penalties rather than a flat no! The existence of a contract like this means that spending your time wasting away on crafting some shit is for dumb losers who can't think good.
Using the interconnectedness of all people, an intelligent person can travel up to 10 miles per success on the roll to another dreamer that is close to where you want to go, and an exceptional success means you get exactly where you want! This means that any wall or border in the mortal world is easily breached if you can find a sleeping hobo within ten miles on the other side.
Contracts of Hearth
A catch-all dice-trickery combat, which each clause allowing you to do a different level of dice-trick for a single Glamour. However the trick to this is the Ban, which acts like a Goblin-Contract-esque Drawback that only triggers if it is used too often. What is even more difficult is that the Contract strongly implies that the cool-down timer will be in effect against any use of the contract, meaning that the Storyteller then has to declare and manage a world-wide cool-down timer for every single character in their world. As Storytellers are not actually computers, this results in the only time that the Ban of Contracts of the Hearth matter are during the presence of the PCs.
Minor penalty to an action, with a ban of only once per hour- equivalent to removing a willpower's bonus to a defense.
Major bonus (better than spending willpower for an action) to an action, with a ban once per type of action before the next dawn or dusk
Automatic single success
on a single action, with a Ban of once per day per person
You gain 8-agains, for a single action during a single day... yeah, don't mess with this power
You get an exceptional success within an extended action, and yet that extended action is then created to still somehow be hollow and flawed. The ban is that you turn the roll of an extended action into a dramatic failure. The ban then goes on a rant that “The Fates” are not stupid enough to allow you to use the ban as an offensive weapon because Reasons.
Contracts of Mirror
The "disguise yourself" contract chain, but also a not-so-secret physical combat contract chain.
You turn your Mein into a different Seeming or Kith of your choice- but as this doesn’t work on the Mask, this means that you're still recognizable by a regular human paparazzi. But against other changelings and while in the hedge, it works as a disguise of anonymity, as a Beast version of your Elemental self is quite different. What I like about this Clause is that the Catch of having dined with a member of the chosen Kith or Seeming within a week means that even a social dinner has a deeper, manipulation subtext. A Riddle Kith-using fugitive hiding out in a hollow with a rolling buffet party is a great little plot-nugget.
This is a frustrating Clause, as it is purposefully written in a vague and useless way unless you trigger the clause. A single success gives you "a feature" of someone you are attempting to impersonate, but an exceptional success allows you to skip having to roll as long as you pay the costs. Meaning that a person who triggers the catch can spend an effectively infinite amount of time waiting to get an exceptional to get a perfect disguise as someone else, and to disguise as someone else perfectly, you have to have a perfect level of detail while you are using your Clause to get the right collection of features.
The catch is that you possess something of your intended disguise. Meaning that the social impact of such a clause results in a few things: this contract doesn't dupe mantles, so you can at least be sure that a Summer person is a Summer person; Changelings automatically identify anyone by the pledge they have with them 6 , so you have to manage a small or smaller circle of pledges based on your level of trust; you can only hold things that be a no-pants wonder and claim that you own nothing. And in any situation outside of those cases, you shouldn't trust anybody.
Transfigure the Flesh
A dual Ant-Man / Giant-Man size-muckery Clause. Using Stamina, you gain or reduce your size up to half your successes rounded up. The catch is kinda hilarious in that as long as it is not the right size clothes, it works, whether it is big or small. Popping this in the first round of combat is a fantastic choice and works as an off-brand version of the size-gaining Ogre Kith, and the shrinking aspect is great to get out of unfortunate bindings.
A super boring combat Clause, you use your strength to get a bunch of minor combat boosts a la the Life Disciple Transmute Form. The only interesting one is getting armor; everything else is easily dupeable with merits either in the corebook or Rites of Spring
A strong enough person can turn yourself into a semi-animate object. That rock in the room? Might actually be WATCHING YOU. Also, a great way to Colony Drop people if your Storyteller lets you get away with turning into a gigantic-sized object that can still wiggle about a little bit. The catch is a social one as well- anything someone else makes for you means that you asking for a favor gets an extra bonus.
Contracts of Smoke
The sneaky bastard clauses.
One of the rare no-roll clauses. You alter the trail of your passing so that it seems like it is something else... but it is always uniquely *you*. Its kinda dumb, in all honesty, other than freaking the mundanes with bird feet at a murder scene.
For a Clause that is based on intelligence, you would think that it would do something different than the previous one. Instead of leaving behind a calling card, you leave zero trace… kinda. A contract that depends on a Storyteller call to give either a minor penalty or make it impossible to tracking you based on “the circumstances” is very weak. What makes it worse is that the clause gives you penalties and bonuses to the roll that directly involve “circumstances”... meaning asking the Storyteller to also decide the effect of your roll seems like an extra step of fiddly bullshit.
Spend glamour, get a very decent bonus to Stealth rolls. The catch is that you can’t be touched by natural light in the last day, so its almost built for night-owl types to begin with.
One of the best save-or-suck Clauses in the game. Your intelligence versus your opponent's resolve to make that person blind.
You gain "true invisibility" for a few minutes or up to a scene… which isn’t THAT powerful unless you spam the contract with a catch (and you use first printing rules, because this is a Willpower contract) of having made a meaningful lie to someone that you care about, if this lie was revealed. At this point, the subtext of being a closeted Fae with a normal partner becomes text.
Next time: The magic of your peoples.
1 - This gets explained in an obtuse way by the time Dancers in Dusk gets released around, six books later.
2 - This is the first reference to the "local hedge" in the book as a concept, and while it is later picked up on for other powers, what makes the "local hedge" local is infuriatingly undefined. I have my own house-rule for this in games I run because it heads off later arguments.
3 - Editing a dream with someone already riding inside the dream gets detailed later in the book. It is, obviously, complicated.
4 - This would be a much sillier and random distinction if it weren't for the catch of third clause of Eternal Spring- aka the healing contract- that depends on honest declarations of romantic or familial love. Thankfully, even if you do have an enemy that gets a token of favor from you or one of those people, Dream Combat is basically easy-mode.
5 - The Clause makes pains to note that you can not use this automatic success to do more than one success's worth of damage, no matter how clever you think you are being. This is because the writers are not catering to pedants.
6 - This actually means that one of the ways you prevent rival enemies of a freehold from killing each other is to bind them in a mutual pledge, as an agent of chaos can otherwise impersonate an 'enemy' and create a false-flag conflict in the freehold.
I've got one hand in my pocket, and the other one is giving a high fiveOriginal SA post
I've got one hand in my pocket, and the other one is giving a high five
Seeming Contracts are the WoD-ism of giving access to an entire ladder of superpowers at a discount to every shard of monster available. This, of course, doesn't prevent anyone that really needs a clause or three to truly complete "their concept" 1 from spending experience points on them. These are the powers that you can be fairly certain to encounter or use constantly- especially as characters are asked to have some number of Clauses from their personal Seeming (or Court) Contracts.
Again, you must have first purchased the first clause of a contract to get the second cause later. No dip'n'skip around here!
Wizened Seeming - Contracts of Artifice
The contract of tinkering. This is where Changeling: The Lost gets its reputation for steampunk gadget gags and being a game more about gear than superpowers. 2
Brief Glamour of Repair
You fix something, with a catch of it being something that isn't yours. Usually a day, but can be durable if you achieve an exceptional.
Touch of the Workman's Wrath
You're a gremlin, 'arry! This is where the spiteful Wizened stereotype comes to roost. A single success disables a "device" or vehicle for at minimum of a minute. What counts as a device is best decided before arguments arrive.
Blessing of Perfection
A really ugly mandatory extended action to add your Wyrd (or half-Wyrd, rounded up) to an item's bonus for a length of time. This is also one of the few Clauses that specifically mention a Goblin Fruit ("Promise Leaves")
Unmaker's Destructive Gaze
The second Clause, but at a distance and more explicitly of a combat use. Even works on items that have no moving parts such as knives. Take THAT, reality!
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. You basically create a Gilligan's Island palm tree device of whatever you need for a scene or longer. The catch is dead simple, but requiring it to be your own workshop makes it harder to break out of prison with.
Darkling Seeming - Contracts of Darkness
Tim Burton horror pastiche. A bunch of powers that don't make any sense together and aren't even that useful outside of very specific scenarios.
Reduction of resolve or composure rolls against "fear or intimidation" equal to Wyrd, and can be used in a burst. Catch of "frighten intruders into your your dwelling" is pretty goddamn pointless and/or a mistake. You're either a trapdoor spider or a grumpy loner, choose one.
Night's Subtle Distractions
A really, really bad obfuscate power 3 that depends on "environmental factors". Still written in a less wordy and assumptive manner than your typical copy of obfuscate, so it has that going for it.
Balm of Unwakeable Slumber
For when you want to rob an entire children's ward of their things / dreams. Also useful for kidnapping but... we don't mention that.
Boon of the Scuttling Spider
You can move on walls and never trip, even fight on walls... for no stated benefit. A better narrative-control power than actual effect.
Touch of the Paralyzing Spider
Another save-or-suck Clause, halving most rolls that matter in combat.
Next time: Contracts for the Elements and Beasts.
1 - Strange how often someone's character concept involves being King Shit of Murderhobo Mountain, but so it goes.
2 - An artifact of Changelings not having the same power scale as your typical White Wolf splat, along with "cold iron" being a strong counter to everything.
3 - "You aren't actually invisible, you're just ignorable." Do you screw up cameras? People walking in late after you popped the magic? Do people remember what happened afterward? How ignorable are you, really? Another argument waiting to happen if you don't have it now.
Strangely, diversity is not equally effective across all encountersOriginal SA post
Strangely, diversity is not equally effective across all encounters
Seems to be the best time to deliver on the two contracts that have the widest differences in application based on what you select... somewhat.
Both the Beast and Elemental Contracts in the Changeling: The Lost corebook allow for the player to select what specific application of "animal" or "element" to specialize in. The animal subtype goes fairly wide, while Elements specifically prevent man-made applications 1 from being selected- Electronic Data or Pottery are not allowed. Sadly, the book doesn't specify if an element of Wood is limited to dead material or not. 2
Naturally, a purchase of one type (say Sand) proceeds up the chain, but any new types require starting from the bottom- but at a reduced cost.
Elemental Seeming - Contracts of Elements
Tautologically valid. This contract chain is both one of the more expensive contracts and one of the strongest for either Grand Wizard types or your basic thug combat monster.
Cloak Of The Elements
You are protected from the effects of the named element, so long as it is a natural form rather than a weapon-ized form. 3 Dead simple Catch of possessing a symbolic representation means you'll often cast this Clause cost-lessly other than the instant action to cast it.
Armor Of The Elements' Fury
THE combat clause that works the same no matter what element you select. You get a flat +1 to armor that stacks with everything and deals half-your-Wyrd to people/objects that touch it, and get a Lethal conversion and a plus half your Wyrd (rounded up) to specific hand-to-hand attack 4 that uses Dexterity & Brawling. This results in most Elementals being kung-fu masters.
Within double willpower range you can move an amount of an element around. Element-bending like crashing waves, but also electronic manipulation and rope animation. One of the major places where your element selection determines what you can do.
Calling The Element
Like control elements, but with a visual range to begin with and able to move anywhere within Wyrd x 10 yards afterwards. One of my favorite tricks to create a magic, self-moving motorcycle, since you're constantly moving with the element at rolling speed.
Become The Primal Foundation
You and the items you carry close to you become the element. 5 Attacking you as an element is basically impossible and snuffing out your element in an unconventional way only costs 2 Willpower and a forbiddance to not do it again.
Beast Seeming - Contracts of Fang & Talon
A fairly under-powered clause, but as it typical with Beasts, most people interested in having these powers aren't really going for effectiveness. 6
Tongues Of Birds And Words Of Wolves
You can talk to animals of your type. Holy crap does this not matter.
Beast's Keen Senses
+2 to Wits and a special type of 'sensation' that you can use argue with the storyteller to give you more information using your always-useful bat echolocation.
Pipes Of The Beastcaller
Another typical White Wolf power, where you ask the storyteller to do provide a crack team of house-cat commandos to slay your enemies with their ability to trip and claw.
Tread Of The Swift Hooves
You get to move faster and more specially. The number of footraces you have ever been in that weren't pre-determined one way or another is probably nil.
Cloak Of The Bear's Massive Form
Nice of them to pre-state what this clause does most of the time. Changing into a blue whale to crush your enemies doesn't have the same ring to it as essentially turning into a werewolf. One of the more unbalanced Clauses, as turning into a bird often doesn't have the same panache as becoming a giraffe.
Next time: Contracts for the Ugly and Pretty.
1 - Some of this might be niche protection between the Wizened and Elemental Contracts, or a deliberate point of contention between the "natural" form of the Wyrd and regular objects.
2 - I would like to vote no, because I'd like to protect the niche of the innumerable vegetable-affecting Contracts coming up in the Court section, but examples are given where living trees are effected by the clauses. Which means someone is going to ask for Contracts of Elements (Flesh) at some point.
3 - "Does the fire clause makes you immune to arson" you ask, 'or just flamethrowers'. My call is yes, but I'm uninterested in games where people burn each-other's houses down. I lean on the example given of a fire-poker being immune'd but a sword not here.
4 - As stated, this means you don't get any bonus to grappling attacks, despite being a Changeling surrounded by spiky shadows. Should your half-Wyrd armor damage stack with your Dex + Brawling + half Wyrd roll?
5 - Does this make you invisible if you're around your type of element, such as air or water? Yes, this is an argument people have had.
6 - My home-brew solve for this is to throw the summoning aspect into the tongue clause earlier and give it more specific timing rules, give the fourth clause a defensive bonus, and allow the fifth clause to be as weak/strong as the animal selected.
So beautiful I had to push it overOriginal SA post
So beautiful I had to push it over
We all mourn in our own way; I've decided to mourn David Bowie's passing by hitting writing more about C:tL, because one of the two Contracts involve the rockstar/androgynous Fairest seeming, and he's a major part of one of the touchstone references to the game 1 .
Ogre Seeming - Contracts of Stone
I wish this had a better name, as Stone reminds me too much of the element. One of the major combat Contracts that are all about punching things really, really hard and very little else. 2
Might Of The Terrible Brute
A reflexive - as in immediately adding to your roll- roll of Wyrd plus strength with successes stacking to strength at the cost of a Glamour. There's a nice reference to The Princess Bride in the catch (fighting multiple opponents barehanded). Because this strength doesn't stack with Armor of Elements, you'll see a major divide in your combat monsters because of these two parts.
Ogre's Rending Grasp
Kinda, sorta useless way to bash down a door by reducing its durability before going in on its structure.
Display Grandiose Might
Add your Wyrd to your strength for a scene- as long as you don't use it for combat or breaking an inanimate object. The catch explains what this clause is for: becoming a show-off athlete or demonstrative brute. Also good to toss your little buddies over a wall.
Gluttonous Feast Of Health
A major self-heal. An hour of gorging yourself on foodstuffs turns a single aggravated or two lethal into two bashing damage. Anyone who has been around a Werewolf game can tell you that this sort of ability to heal yourself allows players to risk damage and then come back by the next session or time-skip fully ready to go hurl themselves at danger again.
Red Rage Of Terrible Revenge
You hulk the fuck out, Werewolf style. Each success adds to your initiative, stamina, strength, armor, and non-agg wound penalty ablation. Lasts a combat scene.
Fairest Seeming - Contracts of Vainglory
The "charm person" of the Contracts. Hardly as subtle in most applications, these Clauses are all about using your personal dynamism as a hammer to get your way. Also interestingly, your striking looks merit is not completely useless; you add your "appearance bonus" to the contract roll. Importantly, these clauses allow you to drop your Mask w/o actually hurting your Clarity.
Mask Of Superiority
Wyrd befuddles a target with an aura about you that makes you seem important; perhaps you are a celebrity or a worker's superior many-times-removed or someone "who knows what they're doing". While the Wyrd doesn't inform you who you appear to be to anyone you talk to 3 , you are given a flat success to attempts to boss the target around.
Songs Of Distant Arcadia
Add your Wyrd to expression & persuasion for the scene.
Splendor Of The Envoy's Protection
You gain an additional +2 to striking looks, and as long as you don't harm anyone or brandish weapons 4 ordinary mortals can only block your path instead of attack you; important people 5 must roll Resolve + Composure to attack you. Material media cannot capture your true form and mortals will consider your Mien to be a charming costume or person rather than supernatural.
Mantle Of Terrible Beauty
Roll Intimidate + Wyrd v Composure + Wyrd; anyone (other than those in a Motley Pledge with you 6 ) within 3 yards per Wyrd (now or until the end of the scene) either take -2 to attack/harm, or must flee and cannot spend willpower to gain a bonus to rolls/resistance. Also, you get a +2 to intimidate.
Words Of Memories Never Lived
This is a very complex Clause to try and sum up: you perform as an extended roll for each minute, and anyone within earshot (50yds) and they get an idea as you describe implanted into their minds as if it is a fresh memory- lasting until the next sunrise. Examples given are calming a mob or creating one- but this is essentially a classic 'charm person' with everything that describes, and soooo, yeah.
Next time: Court Contracts.
1 - Jim Henson's The Labyrinth
2 - In fact, most of the bonuses/penalties to your clause roll are there largely to reward sudden Leeroy Jenkins actions and punish sneaky silent thoughtful ones.
3 - Meaning the strength of this Clause is partially your ability to cold-read and partially your ST's interest in role-playing the NPC.
4 - I'd like to define harm in the non-physical sense as well and weapons as anything dangerous in my games, but allowing someone to light a match or command someone to attack isn't the worst thing to allow, and actually by-the-book allowed.
5 - nee' Supernaturals, but lets be real.
6 - We'll explain this later, but imagine your party or group of special friends- and remember, you can have more than one Motley Pledge but they ALL protect from this Clause.
Charm Person and for Already Charming PeopleOriginal SA post
To resolute to be dead!
Charm Person and for Already Charming People
Firstly, we should take a minute to explain Court Contracts here on pg 149. Whereas the General and Seeming contracts served to make players want to get more-or-less more magical in a way that they already were magical, Court Contracts serve as a very rough "class" element.
Court contracts don't come from the Fae- or more specifically, they are said to be based in a promise directly to the seasonal concept to the court's founder. Because of this, instead of using your Wyrd stat, you use your (cheaper to upgrade) Mantle stat1. Further, you are required to possess a Court Mantle of an equal level or a Court Goodwill of two dots higher2 to purchase clauses- both of these are merits, and therefore cheap. However, this does not count for the first Clause; these are "teaser" contracts because Courts like enticing new members. Also to note, is that using a Clause without the appropriate Mantle/Goodwill costs you Glamour when you use it3.
Fleeting stands for the emotion of the court, and Eternal stands for the material goals of the court. Sometimes these don't coincide because and also because the Courts aren't the products of sane, rational people.
Also, I hope you enjoy natural language as rules text!
You learn one of the target's desires. The bonus chart for this is really silly because it uses what you WILL learn as a source for bonuses- learning what is at the forefront is "easier", but do you get to apply that choice first as you are scanning their brain or not? The catch is plum easy to trigger if you use french style cheek kisses in greeting.
Growth of the Ivy
Charm Person (with all the skeeve it implies), but you are typically only changing a desire rather than creating it- giving reason for the first clause above. The bonus list for this one is kinda funny, seeing as a single success works and you're only using Resolve as a defense. The only real major one is if you are creating a desire out of full cloth; and since an exceptional success makes such a change permanent, having a major penalty actually matters.
Disguise self, but only explicitly what the character you are targeting "wants to see the most" i.e. ST fiat. Doesn't alter media pick-up at all. Useful but single-target. Gives some nice avenue to roleplay since the ST hands you a character of their choosing and you have to roleplay it to solve it.
Extended rolls for Crafting (because C:tL is the most Steampunk splat). 10 minutes a roll but can make anything a subject desires and last for at least a scene, even with no useful materials. Kinda useless? Unless you're making something obscenely useful for a single scene, its kinda meh.
Waking the Inner Faerie
So you've altered someone's desires with Growth of the Ivy, but that doesn't MAKE them do it, or make them do anything. But this capper clause makes them do it- period. Abandoning all earthly reasons otherwise, they are going to Steal The Crown Jewels (or whatever).
In sum, this contract chain is really just three that line up to create a Mind Whammy and two just plum useful clauses. Its a running gag that whenever White Wolf forgot what else they wanted a contract to do, they just had it craft something or alter the weather. Speaking of:
Gift of Warm Breath
You heal all bashing damage, sleep deprivation, and food/water deprivation. One of the first clause contracts that use Mantle because , and also because the exceptional lets you gain a pip of Stamina for the scene.
New Lover's Kiss
Catch of "a mortal" saying that it looks like rain. And you make it rain- up to a flash flood. Because Changeling the Lost.
Warmth of the Blood
This will be a long one.
Cost of a Glamour and a Willpower (which, depending on your printing, it something that the catch will pay for or only cover the glamour section)
The catch of "the target has honestly professed a heartfelt and deep love, romantic or familial, for the changeling"
Each success turns Lethal wounds into Bashing wounds, and Bashing wounds go goodbye, with a roll that is Stat + Skill + Mantle (meaning you can sling 15 to 17 dice fairly easily). If you Exceptional, you can convert Aggravated to Lethal (for additional Glamour per Agg3, again)
This Clause is the lynchpin of C:tL and its assumed setting. Healing within combat is difficult and pretty much doesn't exist outside of the Spring Court; and even that healing isn't cheap unless you snag that catch. The entire Spring court becomes everyone's beau or brother because of how, with a fairly minor cost of XP, every character is a major healer. And this archetype is, well, the go-to for most SOs that are dragged into a game, which brings them something to do and also a reason for people to be more than a little nice to them rather than the creepy abusive asshole figure that is typical.
If you asked me why, of all nWoD products, C:tL is the most enduringly popular and champion of fan polls4, this elegant piece of a well-thought out mechanic and how it applies to games would be my answer.
You grow a plant, animal, or human (for an additional cost which includes a willpower and can't be avoided by a catch5) up to a season's worth of growth. Yes, this solves those statutory implications because apparently that was necessary. I mean, its nice to put a way to not just avoid but justify the elimination of prepubescent sexualization... and oh, I guess you get fresh fruit sometimes too. Also, doesn't use Mantle because White Wolf.6
Mother of All Deaths
A nearby plant grapples up to three (sacrificing your instant and defense, respectively) targets with a roll using your Wyrd score. Decent but, well, grappling your opponent isn't the be-all-end-all?
Other than Warmth of the Blood, most of the Eternal Spring is kinda meh. You'll use it when it's useful but they don't often come up. At least Yesterday's Birth chains nicely with Mother of All Deaths if you throw a bag of kudzu seeds on the ground
Next time: Summer's Court Contracts.
1 - This is a nice little toe-dip in an attempt to break the God Stat nature of nWoD games, even though Wyrd is in general always useful to upgrade.
2 - Which means that its impossible for someone to have the 4th or 5th clauses of a Court Contract without having joined the court at some point.
3 - Please decide whether this means catches count for this Glamour cost before you start your game.
4 - When the (most recent) Dark Ages kickstarter polled to see which gameline would get another entry, Changeling won every single time- even when paired with the unpopular Sin Eaters line. By the end, Onyx Path just plain stopped offering C:tL as a choice to let other splats have an opportunity to be included.
5 - Another little piece to show why the first and second printings of C:tL change the game; a catch being mentioned as (potentially) reducing a Willpower cost.
6 - While I don't know that this clause was cut & pasted from a general contract, it wouldn't surprise me.