Changeling: The Dreaming

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Changeling: The Dreaming
CtD logo.gif
Role-playing game published by
White Wolf
Rule System Storyteller System
Authors Mark Rein·Hagen, Sam Chupp, Ian Lempke, Joshua Gabriel Timbrook
First Publication 1995
Essential Books Changeling: The Dreaming

Also known as Otherkin: The Glamourbombing. Take a fucking guess why? I'll give you a hint: Motherfucking Elves. Changeling: The Dreaming takes place in the World of Darkness, so the fluff mentions Mages and you can use Vampires and other emo RPG shit in here. The game teeters on the edge of fuckfaced shitawful and christdamn fuckawesome. It's a really good premise executed poorly: the writers were sort of all over the place as to what they actually wanted the game to be about. Is it a hopeful game of restoring beauty and glamour to the world? Is it a grimdark game of coping living in a world where you see and feel the magic slowly dying? Fuck if I know.

We recently saw the release 20th anniversary book of Changeling, and it turns out to be not as pretentious as Mage 20 was (but it's Changeling, so it's still pretentious) and has a whole bunch of stuff on the game, just like how a 20th anniversary book should be.

Premise[edit]

Long time ago, fae/fairies were common, and shit like shoemaker elves and troll bridges were for real. Then the elves for some reason decided to get the fuck outta dodge (probably because pre-Technocracy Mages wanted to nerf magic in the world). So they packed up and left for the moon. Only, those other fae thingies that weren't elves got left behind for not being beautiful enough, so developed some prancing magic to protect themselves from the encroaching disbelief of the supernatural (Many of the mythical creatures were part of consensual reality, and as people realized that maybe there weren't dragons and unicorns, they started dying and/or leaving for Mythic Realms). Changelings did exist in the old days as babystealing pricks, only now they went for reincarnating themselves in mortal bodies (displacing the human souls in the process too).

Centuries later, the astronomy division of the Technocracy figure "hey, every time we go to the moon, elves fuck our shit up, let's get the sheeple to believe the Moon is just a ball of rock orbiting the Earth, and then their collective faith will make it so, and we can finally build moon bases there." So they organize the Apollo missions, and make sure that everybody's watching when they land and there's no green cheese and no little green men (little green elves, get it?), just a vacuum, dust, and outer-space desert wasteland.

Well, the astronomy division fucked up big time. Everyone watching saw the Moon, and yup, it's dead, it's empty... but everyone also though "Holy shit, we made it to the Moon! The motherfucking Moon! If we can do that... why, we could do ANYTHING!" When millions of sheeple are watching TV and all hoping and believing the same thing, well, how can Paradox not cause something to happen? So, the elves got evicted from the Moon, the sheeple watching teevee short-circuited the eviction and the elves got a first-class ticket and a red-carpet invitation to return to Earth...

Except not really. Basically every Changeling that wasn't an elf said "Screw it, we've gotten used to being free of you all." So the Elves did some stupid magic war thing, involving mass battles on horseback, epic battlefields, and fell magics (Note: This all basically amounts to one giant LARP where some people are throwing beanbags, while yelling "LIGHTNING BOLT! LIGHTNING BOLT!"), then the elves rule everything once again. As an overture to the commoners, some get titles (seldom with holdings to go with them).

However, not everyone is pleased. High King David is the supposed "Nice Guy" of the Sidhe, and tries for constitutional monarchy. However, things go to hell in a handbasket, the king disappears, and around the same time as the Week of Nightmares, Arcadia opens again, bringing more elf nobles into the world, as well as extradimensional true fae. Too many goddamn elves; naturally, the commoner got sick of this shit and decide to go on an elf-killing spree. It's wartime again, lock and load!

Reality vs. Chimera[edit]

Changelings are otherkin. So they view the world through the lens of a crazy person. Think Don Quixote and you're not far off. So they roam land of giants, dragons, and other bizarre fantasies, as these items become "reality" to them. Anyone not enchanted (read: mind-raped), who saw these Changelings would see a riot of mismatched children, teenagers and the odd adult playing some elaborate game of pretend.

Chimera are literally dreams given semi-physical form. Every abandoned imaginary friend, every invention that never got proper funding, every folk tale, fairy tale, or the fevered nightmares of Abdul Alhazared the Mad Arab, literally become dream-matter that Changelings interact with. Chimera can either exist by themselves (in the case of imaginary friends, etc), or be overlaid on top of a pre-existing item (Mortals see a pen. Changelings see a Sword). These chimera can only interact with changelings, or those who are enchanted, doing what is called "Chimerical" (otherkin) damage; so a changeling assaulted by a chimerical dragon, would to mortals look like a nutcase having a seizure/coma. Additionally, many Chimerical abilities simply do not work around mortals (So flying on a chimerical broom is a dumb idea, needless to say...SPLAT!)

There are ways to get around this. One can enchant humans so they view Chimera as changelings do, (right down to taking Chimerical Damage; fun times are had by offering a vampire Elder your blood, putting it in a coma, then dragging it out into sunlight). Alternatively, a Changeling could call on the Wyrd, temporarily showing their otherkin form in real life, or using a chimerical weapon in real life ("They laughed at Tesla's death ray...who'se laughing now?!!?"). However, chimerical damage becomes real damage in turn, so the said chimerical dragon would actually kill a Wyrd'd Changeling for good. Some potent chimera can invoke the Wyrd themselves, or enchant mortals, (and some, like Will-o-the-wisps, are dickishly fond of doing so).

Politics[edit]

Changeling society is mostly feudal. This is because the elves associate most folk tales with the middle ages and Victorianized medieval fantasy, the short-sighted fuckwits that they are.

There are good elves (Seelie, or Summer), and bad elves (Unseelie, or Winter). The Unseelie elves aren't really so bad, just ruthless. It's kinda like Democrats and Republicans -- really the same thing, but call one of them the other and they'll punch your lights out. Then there's the REALLY bad elves, the Shadow Court, which is a secret conspiracy to... I dunno, since all they can really do is beat each other up and maybe make nightmares for the Mundanes, or harass Werewolves and Mages until one of those powerhouses decide to really bitchslap the sparkly little faggots. The Shadow Court are not your friends.

Kiths[edit]

Just like Vampire Clans, Werewolf Tribes and Mage Traditions there's many kinds of elves so you can be different from other players without having to come up with your own ideas; in addition to powers, all the different kiths tend to have their own personality written on them (Heaven forbid you play a lock-n-load Boggan or a vegan Redcap). It's like all these games are imitations of each other, or written by the same guys.

The Core Kiths[edit]

The thirteen common Kithain.

Kiths normally found in Europe and North America. These are the default Kiths because most players of Changeling: The Dreaming live in those areas.

  • Boggans: Busybodies from the "Shoemaker and the Elves" tale.
  • Cluríchaun: Leprechauns. As Irish as they come. Are also hoarders, but not necessarily hoard gold.
  • Eshu: Elves from African stories, the gypsies and storytellers. Can learn Talecrafting.
  • Nockers: Violent, subterranean gnomes/dwarves, with superior tech, a hatred of Elves, banality resistance, and the ability to fix technology by swearing at it. Fond of Steampunk and the Sons of Ether.
  • Piskies: The Kender of the game. Cannot tell the truth. Shoot on sight.
  • Pooka: The furries of Changelings, comedians. Tend to shapechange into "cute" critters like cats, though nothing prevents one from playing one who could shapechange into an elephant. Nockers tend to *really* hate Pookas as a result.
  • Redcaps: Violent little bastards that leave bite-marks on everything. Can and will eat everything. Think Orks dedicated to Khorne. Their splat was written by Richard Dansky (writer of Wraith: The Oblivion), so it has some fun stuff in it (The meatgrinder, a giant machine which could turn anything thrown in it, into sausage. Pass the elf-meat around).
  • Satyrs: PROMOTIONS! BOOZE! MOAR PROMOTIONS!
  • Selkies: Swimmers. Unique in that they can pass on their "skin" (can be a shirt, scarf, belt or any other piece of similar clothing) to turn someone else into a Selkie. Destroying the skin kills them. Can turn into a seal/sea lion at will.
  • Sihde: Arrogant upper-class elves, arrived with the Moon landings and figure they're more "pure" because they didn't have to hide inside human children as long. C20 created a split between the Arcadian Sidhe (the old school ones) and the Autumn Sidhe, who went underground alongside the other Kithain, who as a result have a slightly higher opinion of them.
  • Sluagh: Things that go "bump," in the night, the emo gothfags of elves.
  • Trolls: Oversized blue walls of muscle, they're the Lawful Stupid elves.

There are also several less common Kiths, with quite a few being either subgroups of the more common Kiths or just very rare:

Hsien[edit]

Nyaa! Nyaa!

Asian Changeling consisting of spirits which would gank a person's body just as the soul left (aka "Near-death" experiences). Have animal-form commoners and elemental rulers. They have Luck and curses instead of Glamour and Banality, and a Yin and Yang value rated 1-5 a Tao value based on the average and a Yugen value based on twice their sum. Their powers are drived from the Wu Tan, elemental sorcery based on the five Chinese elements.

  • Chu-ih-yu:
  • Chu jung:
  • Fu hsi:
  • Hanumen:
  • Heng po:
  • Hou-chi:
  • Komuko:
  • Nyan: An animal kith consisting of busty catgirls. (Nyaa~)
  • Suijen:
  • Tanuki:

Inanimae[edit]

Left to right, top to bottom: Paroseme, Ondine, Mannikin, Kubera, Glome, Solimond.

The manifestation of natural environments. Based on the classical air, water, earth and fire, but also plant life and man-made items. Instead of taking human bodies they have Husks, things that look like human bodies that rapidly age only to be reborn in an adolescent form later. Because of their lack of human interaction they can only mimic being human, which means that prolonged contact with humans can inflict Banality. Inanimae all have an Anchor or some kind: either a location or a man-made object. As long as it exists, the Inanimae can keep coming back, but if it's destroyed the Inanimae is gone as well. They come in six kinds:

  • Glomes:
  • Kuberas:
  • Mannikins:
  • Ondines:
  • Parosemes:
  • Solimonds:

Menehune[edit]

Left to right, top to bottom: Kokua, Hana, Kahuna, Ali'i.

The Fae of the Hawai'ian islands, named after the spirit-like Menehune of Hawai'ian myth. They are cut off rom the Dreaming to a greater degree than their fellow Changelings, and therefore have come to rely on nature to harvest their Glamour. Because of their distance from the rest of the world the islands and through them the Menehune went largely untouched by the fuckery of the Inquisition and the Order of Reason, until Captain Cook arrived and fucked everything up for natives and Changelings alike. With the baptizing of every Changeling, with the tearing down of each sacred idol, one Menehune died forever. The Menehune have four Kiths, who have very little physical distinction between them. Instaed, they can be distinguished by how they dress and what their duty in Menehune society is.

  • Ali'i:
  • Hana:
  • Kahuna:
  • Kokua:

Nunnehi[edit]

Native American Kiths named after the Nûñnë'hï, a race of spirit people in Cherokee mythology. Harkening back to Werewolf and their description of the displaced Native American tribes. They come in thirteen flavors:

  • Canotili:
  • Inuas:
  • Kachinas:
  • May-may-gwya-shi:
  • Nanehi:
  • Nümüzo'ho:
  • Pu'gwis:
  • Rock Giants:
  • Surems:
  • Tunghat:
  • Water Babies:
  • Yunwi Amai’yine’hi:
  • Yunwi Tsunsdi:

Nunnehi have Summer and Winter Legacies, and pick one for both. Which one is dominant is based on the season. They also have access to Totems, much like how Werewolves do.

Gallain[edit]

All the other weirdos who don't fit in with any other groups.

Opposing Splats[edit]

Some of the splats aren't meant to be PC options, but are given writeups the same way for Storytellers to build them like PCs, or in case you're running an evil campaign.

Dauntain[edit]

There are those Changelings that decide that being an otherkin sucks, and use their powers to spread Banality around. (Many of them tend to become Psychologists... a Changeling Scientologist who believes his otherkin soul to be a Thetan would be funny. FUND IT)

Thallain[edit]

Thallain 1.png
Thallain 2.png
Thallain 3.png
Thallain 4.png

Thallain are DOUBLE-UNSEELIE versions of other Kith. Originally there were eight of them, but thanks to the 20th Anniversary Edition there's now 20 of them. They are:

  • Aithu:
  • Beasties:
  • Bodachs:
  • Boggarts:
  • Bogies:
  • Ghasts:
  • Goblins:
  • Huaka'i po:
  • Kelpies:
  • Lurks:
  • Mandragoras:
  • Merrow:
  • Murdhuacha:
  • Nasties:
  • Night Hags:
  • Ogres:
  • Sevartal:
  • Skinwalkers:
  • Spriggans:
  • Weeping Wights:

The Noble Houses[edit]

Being fancypants elves with delusions they're all really knights, princesses, etc, the Sidhe have their Noble Houses, which they seldom allow commoners to join. Being Rich and Beautiful and being a House-member, generally brings more mechanical bonuses and flaws. Each House also has a Seelie/Unseelie affiliation.

Seelie Houses[edit]

  • House Beaumayn: Seers and monster hunters who are trying to kill the Fomorians.
  • House Dougal: Elves pretending to be dwarves. Skilled smiths, can convert Glamour to willpower; however they must play a "wounded" (read, superficially flawed) otherkin form.
  • House Eliuned: "Seelie" in that they support said Court, but many tend to go Unseelie. They're the "spooks" of Sidhe society, and tend to focus on magic prowess; several also become necromancers.
  • House Fiona: Fancy-prancy elves, with a tendency to fall for romantic love and all that wishy-washy crap. Tend to have loads of sex.
  • House Gwydion: Political bastards obsessed with divine right to rule. High King David Ardry is one of their members.
  • House Liam: Cool dudes who stick up for mortals and commoners, so naturally are social outcasts.
  • House Scathach: Back when the other Sidhe fled to Arcadia, those of Scathach said "Come back ya pussies, Earth is where the fightin's at." So they lost most their "beautiful people" powers but don't have the same Banality weakness of the other Sihde... however, they need to roll Willpower when they want to *Flee* from battles and most other nobles don't like them. Part of the Seelie Court, they spend so much time away from large-scale politics their membership is in name only. They don't subscribe to feudalism, are fond of modern tech, and have their own form of Fightan Magic. Think Atreides and yer not too far off.

Unseelie Houses[edit]

  • House Aesin: Viking elves who wear horned helmets and worship the Norse gods.
  • House Ailil: Sneaky political bastards. So they're elves, AND politicians. Many run for Congress. Beware them.
  • House Balor: Claim to be the bastard kids of Fomorians and Sidhe. Are immune to Cold Iron but have a wounded otherkin form. More so than the other houses, are likely to join the Shadow Court, and team up with Black Spirals to cause havoc and lulz. However, they're Goreans (One of their Oaths lets one mind-control a mortal by branding/piercing her) so they are fail.
  • House Daireann: Honor, Hospitality, Vengeance. Those are the tenents of House Daireann; uphold them and they will be your fastest friends, violate them and their wrath will be terrible.
  • House Danaan: The mysterious Fourteenth house, playing a part in the Endless Winter scenarios from the Time of Judgement book. Only nominally aligned with the Unseelie Court, they try to recapture the Dreaming and reopen Trots. They are immune to Bedlam caused by living in the Dreaming, but are prone to forgetting details about their mortal lives.
  • House Leanhaun: Super-charismatic elves that need to drain human souls to remain beautiful and not age.
  • House Varich: Basically Vulcans, trying never to love again.

Glamour, Greymayre, and Magics[edit]

Changelings use "glamour" as their fuel source (hence glamourbombing). They can get this from harvesting dreams from humans, either by inspiring humans to dream (Acting as muses for artists, providing constructive criticism for game designers, etc) or by crushing and absorbing their dreams (Burning a child's drawing of a house in front of said child). Additionally, there is "Dross" which is basically Tass; be it Faerie Mushrooms, mana crystals, etc, or be it items with artistic significance (The original copy of "A Midsummer's Night Dream, as an example), by consuming these items, one can use them in place of Glamour for casting stuff.

Glamour can be used for creating magic items, invoking kith powers (For example, if a Redcap wanted to eat an engine block, it would need to spend Glamour), or to use many of the changeling powers (be it transforming into battlemode, or enchanting a mortal), or for casting Cantrips.

Cantrips are the Changeling equivalent of Disciplines or Spheres...however, many of the effects are more "open-ended" in general. A Changeling has both Arts ("What effects can be done?"), and Realms ("What can an Art Affect"); however, this generally means that it will take awhile before Changelings can produce really useful direct-attack spells. (As "Enemy" requires maxed out dots in the Actor Realm, so baleful polymorph would take awhile to learn...).

To cast a Cantrip, one determines the Art to use, (For example, "I want my parachute to have an updraft" would be the Jump ability, under Wayfare), then the realms appopriate to what is being affected (A parachute is an item with moving parts, so Prop 3). If one can use multiple Realms to affect a target, then they can lower the casting difficulty. (For example, using the Gimmix ability to telekinetically throw a knife towards an enemy. If you have Actor 5 and Prop 3, you can lower the difficulty by 1). Additionally, two metamagic realms let one put delays on a cantrip, or increase area effect (So if one wanted to throw multiple blades, one could add the Scene realm on top of other realms.)

Then your character has to do something thematically appropriate to the power in question; Normally, the more time this "Bunk" takes, the lower the casting difficulty, but real clever Bunks can add a bigger bonus, so it's up to the players to improvise (And in fact, using the same bunk repeatedly can give the GM an excuse to raise the difficulty). For example, attempting to scry the future could involve meditating on a crystal ball, reading the entrails of a sacrificial animal (Or elf princess), or tuning a television to ultra-ultra high frequency while wearing a tinfoil hat. However, many of the core examples are very silly; we're talking stuff like throwing pixie-dust and holly leaves, eating cotton candy, or using tinkerbell wands. A lot of troupes will have a deck of cards with silly dares written on them. This junk goes over really well when LARPing but fuck that shit; we're fa/tg/uys, so lets have some dignity.

An additional power that Changelings have is Greymare, the ability to study Glamour and the Dreaming, and to use it to develop new Arts, to mutate existing Arts, to use countermagic, or design/enforce Oaths. However, they never created mechanical rules for oathcrafting, so it would make more sense to adapt the rules either from Changeling: The Lost, or Dark Ages: Fae.

Of Banality, Bedlam, and Balance[edit]

Banality is to Changelings what Paradox is to Mages and Humanity loss is to Vampires. The game does a pretty lousy job explaining it, but it consists of having too normal a life. A better way to envision it is like Clarity in Lost, except that most Changelings fear getting it too high due to the corresponding loss of power.

However, having too *low* a banality rating is also a bad thing. For one thing, it makes it easier to affect you with hostile magic (And one can actually opt to gain banality points to do counterspells), and if Banality gets too low, you gradually start going insane, become a True Fae, and must depart the world.

There are ways around gaining excess Banality, however. One can spend Glamour to lower Banality, which is the simplest way. A more "fun" (in the Dwarf Fortress Sense) way to lower Banality is to convert Temporary Banality to Nightmare Dice; basically whenever casting Cantrips, you substitute some caster dice for Nightmare Dice, and should they roll 1s, you get side effects similar to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay miscasts (Be it turning milk sour, causing all grass around you to die, your cantrip to reverse itself, or summoning demons to your location); Nightmare Dice become normal dice once set off. To lower permanent banality involves making a "mundane" able to dream again. Examples can include The Angel from "It's a Wonderful Life" convincing George Bailey not to jump, or Tyler Durden taking the convenience store clerk outside back and threatening to shoot him if he doesn't treat life with more reverence.

Eventually, though, even the Changelings get more worn down, and grumpy, and doubtful, and succumb to growing up. Few Changelings are able to hold on to their innocence and open-mindedness past their early twenties, and eventually turn Mundane. For them, it's getting on with their lives, growing up, getting serious about life, but they close the door on their fae natures and deny it was anything more than fantasy if they remember it at all. For their friends who can still live the dream, it's another lost friend to Banality.

Shortcomings of Changeling[edit]

Art in the books can get rather WTF.

Loads of splats. WAY too many.

The writers can't tell if it's a game about bringing back cheer to a dreary world or about losing innocence and happiness when you grow up. Keep in mind that it shares the setting with games like Wraith: The Oblivion and Werewolf: The Apocalypse and said setting is called World Of Darkness. As our hatefuckbuddies over at TVTropes succinctly put it: "Those who were looking for something along the lines of the rest of the World of Darkness found something covered in glitter; those who wanted something cheerier found the glitter flaked off easily."

Aside from the occasional cute stuff that is contrasted with creepy mirrors of said art, the majority of the books are fairly consistent as far as art goes, showing things that wouldn't be too out of place in D&D or Shadowrun art.

Inconsistent Writing. This was clearest in the absolute inconsistency on what "Banality" was; seemingly, no two writers could agree on what produced it.

The games of the World of Darkness
Old World of Darkness New World of Darkness
Vampire: The Masquerade Vampire: The Requiem
Werewolf: The Apocalypse Werewolf: The Forsaken
Mage: The Ascension Mage: The Awakening
Wraith: The Oblivion Promethean: The Created
Changeling: The Dreaming Changeling: The Lost
Hunter: The Reckoning Hunter: The Vigil
Kindred of the East Geist: The Sin-Eaters
Mummy: The Resurrection Mummy: The Curse
Demon: The Fallen Demon: The Descent
Orpheus Beast: The Primordial
Deviant: The Renegades
Fan-made games
Highlander: The Gathering Genius: The Transgression
Zombie: The Coil Giant: The Perfidious
Mutant: The Aberration
Princess: The Hopeful
Sovereign: The Autonomy