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Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

While I stand by what I had in my abandoned Alternity write-up, I hated the game and trying to play it, and it shows.

On the other hand, would a 7 Seas-esque run through of Changeling: The Lost be up to people's interest?


Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

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

Gerund fucked around with this message at 03:37 on Apr 2, 2013

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

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 scientifically1 .


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, thorns2 .


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 home3 .

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 So4 .

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 lost5 .

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 loving 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)

1the 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!
3It 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.
4Is Arcadia the same place as mentioned in Mage? gently caress you, and I'll explain exactly why when we get to Equinox Road
5One 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.

Gerund fucked around with this message at 01:24 on Apr 8, 2013

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

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 tolerance1. 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 taken3, 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 it4

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.

1For the modern version, see Portlandia.
2I'll get to the medievalist invisible geography of the Hedge when I do Dancers in the Dusk
3At least until Equinox Road is published

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

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 arrangement1. 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 making GBS threads 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.

Gerund fucked around with this message at 06:37 on May 29, 2013

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

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 Contract2, 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 infertile4) 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.

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

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 drat 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 physical1, 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 competitive2. 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.

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

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 Burton1 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 want2

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 using a mask and loud noise to condition a baby to have a phobia.

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

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 humanity1. 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.

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

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, gently caress 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 changelings3. 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 setting5.

No, its really a fantastic commentary. White Wolf, to its fault, works with pop psychology6 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 tool7': 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 19998. 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.

Gerund fucked around with this message at 22:46 on Jun 4, 2013

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

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.

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

Or right, for a given assumption of 'right'. And the level of abuse can be similar to, say, having been a minority in a hateful repressive society or having to care for a disabled relative on a poverty-level job. Domestic abuse is just the most obvious and effective metaphor.

Tasoth posted:

For a changeling character, assuming I've got this right, have them be a person who was stuck with the role of talking toadstools, frogs, toads, salamanders and other slimey things while amongst the Fae and they may be the main architect of the troupes escape, possibly by saving someone they constantly saw in distress. Their end goal is to actually be the hero they were engineered not to be.

Oh, and be slimey as all hell.

Got it. Gonna make that character. Anyone else while I'm writing?

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

Kellsterik posted:

Chatelaine butler with a worrisome facial scar who tries to submerge their lost mortal life and Arcadian trauma by completely immersing themself into the role of the perfect servant and really buying into the whole RenFair magical society of the freehold.

More! More!


Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

Bieeardo posted:

One of the Mage end-days scenarios suggested that the universe was coming to an end, and the only way that even some beings might survive the birth of the next was by being converted into spirits that would be utterly bizarre and inscrutable to the inhabitants of that next world. I've always had the suspicion that that is the prehistory of the NWoD, and that the True Fey, and the Pure, and the Whatnot are remnants of those older lines that are no longer capable of coherent communication, but are so primal and so marked by the history of those games, that distorted elements still manage to express themselves.

That's a definite thing in some lorehound's theories. Some posit that True Fae are what happened post-apocolypse to the elements of Entropy that once it was split into Fate + Death. By never having any ending, they can only live by creating further tragedy.

On that note, I promise to get back to C:tL, I've been editing what writing I have for readability.

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