Changeling: The Lost
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Changeling: The Lost is the fifth supplementary role-playing game line set in the new World of Darkness. It is published by White Wolf and it uses the Storytelling System for rules. Changeling is the second limited game published by White Wolf after Promethean: The Created, but in April 2008 it was announced that because of the success of the line it would be an extended limited series not limited to 5 books. Since then, three hardcover books were released. A PDF-only sourcebook, Goblin Markets, rounded out the line in the Fall of 2009. There are no plans for future official releases, but all Changeling titles remain in print and material may be included in other World of Darkness supplements.
The game is primarily inspired by tales of changelings from European folklore, but includes elements of similar stories from around the world. While superficially similar to the original World of Darkness game Changeling: The Dreaming, Changeling: The Lost approaches the legends from a more traditional perspective of mortals kidnapped by Fae, and eschews the heavily-reviled past life angle that characterized its predecessor.
The prevailing mood for a Changeling game is bittersweet. While the game works to enmesh itself within the horror genre, it does so in a way that recognises the deeply moving beauty that often accompanies faerie tales. The game does this through contrast, demonstrating juxtapositioning of dreams and nightmare, of wonder and terror. While much of what the changelings were all about has been ripped away, this is placed in context of a hard won freedom and struggles worth fighting for.
The game is set in the World of Darkness, a fictional analogue to the Reality|real world, but is a darker depiction thereof. Not only is the world cast in a more violent, malevolent and horrific manner, but humanity unknowingly coexist with legendary monsters and the supernatural. The "Changelings" of the title are ordinary human beings who were kidnapped by the fairy|Fae and taken to serve a durance of slavery in Alfheimr|Faerie (alternately known as Arcadia. The player characters represent changelings who have escaped their otherworldly captors and through the netherworld that separates Faerie from Earth, known as the Hedge. The game focuses on the experiences of these changelings, the self-titled Lost, as they re-discover the world of their birth, try to cope with the changes they have undergone, and seek to evade recapture.
Changelings refer to themselves as "the Lost": they were kidnapped by the immortal Fae, taken to an alien realm, and held prisoner. While trapped in Faerie (referred to as their "Durance"), they were forced to serve their otherworldly masters and endure servitude ranging from menial labour to torture. In being dragged through the Hedge to Faerie, some essential piece of their humanity was torn away by the thorns of the Hedge, and over the course of their Durance, they are forced to forge compacts with the realm that triggers a change in their physical and metaphysical nature to survive under the twisted laws underpinning Faerie.
Many escape only to find that in their place has been left a Fetch, faerie simulacrum forged from leaves, twigs, and other debris, and that their experience of the passage of time may be greatly different from the passage of time on Earth since their theft. While some will seek to kill and replace the Fetch in hopes of reclaiming their lives, many more discover that either the world or their selves have altered far too much to resume where they left off.
In turn, many of the escaped turn to others of their kind, establishing political havens and refuges amongst the enclaves of humanity. Partly to provide mutual protection against external and internal threats, partly to provide a support network of fellow survivors of Faerie that they can identify with, and partly to hold society and court in the absence of true integration with humanity. For even under the best possible circumstances, the Lost are no longer fully human, and having been exposed to the wonders and horrors of Faerie, they cannot subsume themselves within the bliss of ignorance.
While it is possible for a story to exist without the backdrop of a changeling society, the customary society model for most cities containing changelings is that of the freehold, a collection of changelings who are declared liberated from Faerie rule. Changeling society represents aspects of both human society and the nature of faerie accords. As changelings are creatures bound to an imperceptible flow of fate known as the Wyrd, they can forge with each other verbal pledges that are mystically binding. This is itself a reflection of Faerie, where the entire fabric of its reality functions by a process of conceptual contracts and interrelation. In this manner, changelings use the art of pledge crafting as the basis for building trust amongst themselves, and social decorum, so verbal pledges and codes of etiquette serve in stead of formal written laws as in human society.
While the freehold contains many of the trappings of feudal society, such as fealty, a court system, codes of etiquette, patronage and peerage, the functional model is unique to changelings. Rulership is a shared function, in that rulership is expected to cycle through a number of holders on a reasonably equal basis as accorded to the power of the various courts of a freehold. This division of power is held by the various courts, with each court representing one section of a group of natural phenomena. As well, each Court has a specific plan for resisting and turning away the True Fae.
The Seasonal Courts, which are said to be predominant to Europe and North America, include:
- Spring Court: The Emerald Court, affiliated with the emotion of Desire and the aspect of New Growth and Rejuvenation; revel in delight and pure joy to turn away the True Fae.
- Summer Court: The Crimson Court, affiliated with the emotion of Wrath and the aspects of Heat and the Sun; seek to destroy the True Fae who come to earth with military might.
- Autumn Court: The Ashen Court, affiliated with the emotion of Fear and the aspects of the Harvest and Decay; use stolen Faerie Magic (Contracts, Tokens, Oneiromancy, and Pledges) against their creators.
- Winter Court: The Onyx Court, affiliated with the emotion of Sorrow and the aspect of Cold; attempt to go "underground" and avoid the attentions of the True Fae.
Other courts are introduced in later supplements, that are designed to represent the political dynamics in the Orient (Directional Courts) and Slavic regions (Sun and Moon Courts):
- North Court: The Armor Court, affiliated with Suffering/Detachment and the Black Tortoise; practice detachment and ascetic hermetism to appear more undesirable to the Fae.
- East Court: The Serpent Court, affiliated with Greed/Envy and the Azure Dragon; dive back into the human world and attempt to gain power among mortals.
- South Court: The Vermilion Court, affiliated with Passion/Ecstasy and the Vermilion Bird; find strength by connecting to mortal emotions on an intimate level.
- West Court: The White Tiger Court, affiliated with Honor/War and the White Tiger; use military might to turn back the True Fae, as well as attempting to eliminate faerie behavior as much as possible.
- Sun Court: The Court of the Day, affiliated with Shame and Righteousness; drawing power from virtuous acts the True Fae cannot comprehend.
- Moon Court: The Court of the Night, affiliated with Disgust and Wickedness; embracing their fae nature to become less human and thus appear undesirable.
- Dusk Court: The Umbral Court, accepting the fact the they are all doomed and must make the fullest of the time left. Accepting of their doomed fate, but not going down without a fight. They thrive on Fatalism.
- Dawn Court: The Auroral Court; anticipate change and see the good that comes from it even though everything seems lost. Creators of their own destinies and a better future. They thrive on Hope.
While a large number of faerie creatures are presented in the setting, the protagonists of the story are the changelings. As changelings were once humans transformed into something part faerie, the character's own lives become vehicles for exploration of the nature of the fae. As changelings are all victims of kidnapping, slavery, and various forms of abuse, they inevitably are confronted with themes of mental and emotional torment. The fact that most changelings are dealing with some form of alienation and dehumanisation has allowed the society to develop a high tolerance for eccentricity and understanding for individual distress.
Beyond that, changelings' behaviour and nature are somewhat altered to be more in line with that of their former Keepers. In many situations, changelings begin to manifest the traits of the fae that make them so terrifyingly inhuman: their cruel beauty, their capricious nature, their inscrutable laws, and their inability to empathise with humanity. Over all, both changeling's individual and social behaviour can be thought of as reflecting the tenets of faerie tales and legend.
The changeling's Durance brings about a physical transformation, each one shaped differently by his or her personal experiences in Faerie. As a result Changeling: The Lost features a more nuanced and detailed character-creation system than the other World of Darkness games. Some Changelings exhibit inhuman beauty, while others exhibit atavism, and the general motifs of physical change determined by the function or role in Faerie are called Seemings, which can be further defined by a specific Kith.
Changelings are those faerie-stolen humans who have managed to escape their unearthly masters, break through the barrier between worlds, and return to the world of their birth. The world of the Others is a strange and uncanny place however, and the simple act of living there changes human beings in ways they could never imagine. These changes are what make up the fae mien, or Seeming, of the Lost. They are reflections of who each changeling is and what they have been through; ultimately, they are what separates the Lost from other human beings, and even from one another. They are still the same person they were when the Fae took them, and yet they are not; they are still human, and yet they are Fae; they are all changelings, and yet they are as different from each other as they are from humans and Others. Their bodies and souls reflect these realities and, as such, Seemings provide benefits to Changelings, but also impose penalties.
The changes which transform a normal human into a Changeling can come as a result of the duties the Lost performed for their Fae masters, or as a result of the environments they were exposed to; most often, they come from the Fae who stole them. Still other changes can come from the escape itself, as the Changelings fight their way through the Thorns back into the world of mortal men and women. Whatever the circumstances, in the end, no-one escapes unscathed.
- Beast: Beasts would have spent her time in Faerie with the mind (and sometimes the form) of an animal. There is no real consciousness of the past in this state, only the eternal vivid present. Because of that, a Beast’s memories of his time with his Keeper are fragmentary and blurred, snatches of vivid colors, a vibrant swirl of hunger, pain, fear, violence and sex.
- Darkling: Darkling's memories of their time in Faerie are awash with shadowy fears. Vague, hulking forces loomed from the corner of the room. Small skittering things crawled across faces or became momentarily tangled in hair before dissolving. Wet, slithering things moved around in the background. Trapdoors and boarded windows with something behind them figure heavily in dreams of Faerie. Being sent on errands with no point, being forced to copy ancient codices of lore that made no sense while outside things shrieked and fluttered, being made to enter a cellar and being eaten, over and over again, being lost in mazes: all of these things feature heavily in Darkling dreams of Faerie. The dark places of the human world don’t remotely compare.
- Elemental: While most other Lost became the way they did through simply living in a Faerie’s home and eating Faerie food and doing Faerie work, the Elementals were often deliberately changed, transformed into slaves of some kind or another, or features of the land until one day, they awoke to themselves and realized they had to escape. Their memories of Faerie are often difficult to understand. Some know that once, they understood what it was to be a tree, or a stone or a mound of earth. Some remember being lost to enchantment, becoming a clockwork doll or a lover made of ice. Others recall being lost in an environment now alien to them: perhaps the changeling served as a manservant in a flying city of glass or a blazing city made all of brass.
- Fairest: The Fairest find that the memories of their time in Faerie are brief, fragmentary. The Fairest have dreams of self-annihilating ecstasy, of perfect pleasure, intercut with moments of horror and fear. Romantic interludes segue into hellish agonies. A bed covered with radiant blossoms is suddenly drenched in blood, the flowers becoming hooks and chains that rend and tear. The perfect body, only glimpsed in fragments, becomes as cold as crushing stone. Threads of fragrant hair that cover the dreamer’s face become strands of razor-sharp wire that slice his face away.
- Ogre: Ogres’ memories of their time in Faerie are often clearer than those of other changelings. Kidnapped by monsters, the Ogres became monsters. Some were forced to subsist on raw flesh. Some were chained to the hearth and forced to cook for awful masters. Some scrubbed floors until their knees grew scales. Some were made to fight. Some were chained up in dungeons and fattened up for the pot. All were abused in some way, and Ogres sometimes have flashbacks of verbal and physical abuse, brief painful moments where they relive in their heads the impact of a fist or foot, or the sting of a verbal barb.
- Wizened: The Wizened bring back disjointed memories of random cruelties, of being the butt of tricks and experiments that seemed hilarious to the Fae, even if they couldn’t appeal to any human sense of humor. Many Wizened dimly recall trying to escape over and over again, each time being outwitted by their spiteful captors, perhaps at times being allowed to think they had escaped before the fact that they were in Faerie all along was revealed.
Beyond that, changelings can elect to join one of the Courts and/or Entitlements, which serve as societies of aristocratic standing or as secret orders, each bestowing privileges.
All things faerie, including changelings, are veiled so that they appear mundane to normal human senses. Only the fae have any natural facility at penetrating the Mask to see the truth beneath, but the act of ensorcelling can grant a human being this power, usually temporarily. In addition, certain humans are "eternally ensorcelled", being able to see faerie beings without the need for a pledge or Contract, this power being granted either due to events such as head trauma or being faced with evidence of Faerie so unavoidable that a normal mortal's mind cannot help but accept it.
A changeling's Wyrd represents their affinity with the power of Faerie. The greater a changeling's Wyrd the stronger their mystical prowess and their fae nature is. All changelings start with a Wyrd score of 1, though experience points can be spent to increase it. Low-Wyrd changelings may appear almost human, while high-Wyrd changelings are closer in nature to the True Fae. A high Wyrd score also brings Frailties.
- Frailties are limits imposed on changelings and other fae creatures by the Wyrd to compensate for their powers over reality. Frailties come in the form of Taboos, which either prohibit or compel certain behaviors, and Banes, which are things that automatically injure a changeling who is exposed to them. Frailties can be major or minor: minor frailities are either uncommon or very specific issues (such as a bane of toad spittle, or a taboo that requires one to not wear blue) that are easily avoided in everyday life, whereas major frailities are more common or more general (a bane of salt, or a taboo that forces one to offer hospitality to any person that recites one's name), and therefore more difficult to avoid.
Changelings can swear upon the Wyrd to mystically bind and enforce verbal and written accords and vows with each other. These pledges can grant changelings advantages in the form of boons, and inflict punishments against those who would break them.
The realm of Faerie is partly forged of the substance of dreams, and this fact grants the Fae a special mastery over dreams and dreaming. Changelings, too, have a lesser mastery over dreams, being able to walk in them, shape them, reap Glamour from them and a number of other abilities.
This is a mystical energy that all faerie creatures use to fuel the terrible wonders of Faerie. Within the game, changelings use it to fuel a number of abilities and powers. For a changeling to replenish their spent stores, they must harvest it from a number of available sources, which includes human emotions.
- Cold Iron
- Iron that is relatively pure and unworked by machine is repellent to the creatures of Faerie. It has a natural ability to destroy enchantment, and inflict grievously supernatural wounds to the Fae themselves.
- The Hedge
- The Hedge represents a vast, seemingly intelligent or partially intelligent ecosystem that forms a boundary between Faerie and Earth. Changelings have the innate ability to enter, access and explore the Hedge. It is home to "hobgoblins": beings, sometimes sapient and sometimes not, who deal with changelings on a fairly regular basis and may represent varying degrees of threat.
An inherent ability of the True Fae is the power to forge covenants with concepts or natural mechanisms (such as summer, the wind or fear), and be lent some power related to the subject of the covenant. Changelings have a lesser ability to learn and exploit these agreements, allowing them to call upon such powers to a more limited extent. A number of contracts are naturally available to all changelings, while some show an affinity only with certain seemings or certain courts.
The Lost have many problems to deal with, the most prominent being the Gentry, or True Fae. Other problems include their fetches, Hobgoblins, Enchanted Mortals, Mad Changelings, and the various other beings within the World of Darkness Cosmology.
- Autumn Nightmares
- Book of the Dead
- Changeling The Lost Sourcebook
- Dancers in the Dusk
- Equinox Road
- Goblin Markets
- Lords of Summer
- Night Horrors Grim Fears
- Rites of Spring
- Swords at Dawn
- Victorian Lost
- Winter Masques