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Changeling: the Lost Review

Posted on December 28, 2007 by Matt-M-McElroy

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A Storytelling Game of Beautiful Madness

Changeling is the 5th game launched under the “new” version of the World of Darkness from White Wolf Game Studio. It is partially a re-imagining of Changeling: the Dreaming and a chance for White Wolf to explore myth and legend in new ways. This game deviates much more from its predecessor than Vampire: the Requiem does from Vampire: the Masquerade. Sure, there are a few familiar terms in this version of Changeling, but the game is very, very different from the Dreaming.

In Lost, the characters are victims of the True Fae, having been abducted or seduced into service of these other-worldly beings. The Fae often replace the victim with a Fetch (a Fae creation that effectively assumes the role the character would have had in the mortal world). While in Arcadia the characters fill any number of roles for their masters, servants, lovers, slaves, pawns and decorations in the endless imaginations of The Others.

All of the Lost have managed somehow to escape Arcadia and returned to the world of mortals. They find however, that the world has moved on without them and they no longer really fit into their old lives anymore. Not only have usually not been missed (because of the Fetch that replaced them), but they are now not fully human anymore. Their time in the world of the Fae has altered them with magic and left the mark of the fairy world on them in fundamental ways.

Changeling: the Lost offers up a ton of setting information early on. The first chapter is full of rich detail in regards to the Fae, the life of a Changeling as a servant to these inhuman beings and the lives they attempt to lead now that they have escaped. The balance they attempt to hold between their lives as Lost and the world of the mortals around them is a constant struggle. This is an important element throughout the book, even during the mechanics portion of the game. The Changeling specific mortality Trait called Clarity, for example, is literally the Changeling’s ability to perceive the differences between the mundane and the magical (i.e. mortal and fairy). Much of this early setting information is expanded upon later in the book with the Storytelling System mechanics in later chapters.

Creating characters in Changeling takes a little bit of work, but only because there are so many options. Starting out with the Attributes, Skills and Specialties in the core World of Darkness book is the “easy” part, the real fun begins with the Changeling specific elements that are offered.

At first glance the Seasonal Courts, which make up the political aspect of the setting are fairly straightforward. Summer Court are hotheads who have powers over Wrath and the Winter Court are “cold” and sad. This is only at first glance however, as each of the Courts have advantages and disadvantages for membership. There is plenty of information on each of the Courts and I immediately had several story ideas for my next game. Like Vampire: the Requiem, there is an option for characters to strike out on their own and not sign up with one of the courts (or in the case of vampire, not joining a Covenant).

I actually found that it was easier to choose a character’s Seeming than deciding which of the Courts to align with. Basically, a Seeming tells you what kind of fae your character has become. Whether you are a creature of the night like the Darklings or a pretty little member of the Fairest or even a big bad Ogre usually depends on just why you were taken to Arcadia to begin with and what type of life your character had while they were serving the Others. While there are six different types of Seeming, each of them has a handful of Kith options to further customize your character.

Contracts are the supernatural powers the Fae and the Lost use to affect the world around them. There are a lot of them offered in this book. There are the General Contracts that all changelings have access to, there are also Contracts based on the character’s Seeming and Contracts based on specific Seasonal Courts and last, but certainly not least are the Goblin Contracts. Most Contracts work in a fairly basic World of Darkness fashion, there are five levels of power each with a cost, applicable Dice Pool and Roll Results handily laid out for the Player and Storyteller alike to reference. A great addition to this game is the Catch. Catches are neat options for the character to “get out of” paying the cost (usually Glamour and/or Willpower) of using the power. An example would be to have the token of your enemy given freely to the character.

Between the General, Seeming and Seasonal Contracts there are ton of options for players to arm their characters with and I would have been happy with that big list. The strange little Goblin Contracts are a great extra detail that really adds to the game. They are a twist on the concept of Contracts without breaking the system in any way. Instead of a path of similar powers that get more powerful with experience Goblin Contracts are individual boons that come with a cost, they are ranked depending on how powerful they are. One example is Fair entrance, which allows the character to freely enter any door (disabling alarms and/or locks), but the cost is that their own dwelling will face a similar problem when someone attempts to gain access.

There are a ton of new rules for the Storytelling System in the book, but really, no more than in any of the other core books. These new rules cover the Changeling specific elements of the setting such as Pledges, Tokens, Trifles and how to craft them in your game. There are handy side-bars throughout the book with examples and charts to make understanding the new rules easy for everyone. There are plenty of story hooks throughout these sections of the book and clever little additions to the setting. The Stingseed, for example, is a Trifle which adds extra dice penalties to the victim of bullet wound until the damage from the wound is healed. A character willing to go looking for these seeds just might have an adventure or two during the hunt, is the bonus worth the risk?

There is a lot of information offered to the Storyteller in the form of antagonists, story ideas, helpful information about Fetches and more throughout the end of the book. Types of Lost, mortals and True Fae are some of the varied antagonists offered, each with storytelling hints and stats ready to play. Goblin Markets get their own section with plenty of useful information and even a few optional rules to keep things interesting.

As if Seasonal Court, Seeming and Kith were not enough options for your Changeling character, in the first Appendix of the book are Entitlements. Entitlements are Noble Orders within changeling society offering up various advantages to the character for membership in the order. Some of these advantages are supernatural, some are social and of course, there are a few disadvantages as well. There are nine Orders offered in the appendix and handy rules for creating new Orders should the Storyteller and Players wish to do so.

Appendix two is a guidebook to the Freehold of Miami. This is a ready-to-go setting with a short history of the city from the changeling point-of-view, plenty of politics between the Courts and several prominent characters. This is the same setting as the free Changeling: the Lost Demo and creepy/cool Fear-Maker’s Promise which also offer up NPCs and setting details for Storytellers’ to use if they like Miami.

Changeling: the Lost is a very different game than Changeling: the Dreaming. Some of the terminology may be similar but each book explores fairy tales in a different way and offer up very different types of games. Some fans will want to compare the two games, others will look at Lost as something new and original. I’m a fan of both games. Changeling: the Lost is an amazing book, full of great writing and tons of story elements.

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2 Responses to “Changeling: the Lost Review”

  1. Ed Backing says:

    When I first sat down to make this comment, I had to stop a minute and think. I had to think if I had ever actually played C:tD. And, much to my chagrin, I haven’t. Now, this doesn’t mean I haven’t had exposure to the game and it’s players. In 2006 I was a team lead for the International Camarilla Conference, the largest event game held by the Camarilla Fan Club and White Wolf, and one of the events I was witness to was the actual in-game conclusion of the C:tD venue. Now, granted, I had no clue what was going on, as I said before my experience with the game was minimal, but what I saw was dedicated players of a much beloved venue. People were meeting, for the last sad time, to celebrate their PC’s, both friends and enemies in character and out of character. As for the end, well, ask me another time. 🙂

    Now, the reason I told you that was to set the stage for this: C:tL does share some terminology with C:tD, but that’s about it. C:tL is, quite simply, dark. And evil. And sexy. From the film-noir ready True Fae to the seasonal-emotional Courts, the entire range of the human experience is readily laid out in a new grin light. How much madness can we take? How much alienation? What would you be willing to do to go back to your “home” which you really never left? How do you reconcile what you’ve seen with what you know? These are problems most Lost face, in one way or another, and the game does a superb job of stressing these things to the player, and of also making it easier for the Storyteller to grasp and understand how to present these problems to the players.

    Now, I did have one complaint with C”tL, and it’s a purely physical one. Physical as in I couldn;t read the book. See, I’m partially color blind, and the book is printed in, as I’ve been told because I couldn’t tell, light green lettering on light green pages. Hence, blank pages to some where others see the words. It’s invisible ink on a chromatic scale.

    That aside, give C:tL as chance. Just go in paranoid and pissed off. Trust me.

  2. Vhurka says:

    A lot of the new WoD strikes me as being straightforward. Maybe it’s just the people I play with, but I find it difficult to do anything that takes a true level of intellect in, say, Hunter. But with Changeling, that Lynchian intellectual crap I do to fuck with the PCs actually WORKS.
    There’s a level of uncertainty to everything, since you can’t always trust your guys perceptions of reality. That’s hard to portray well, but when you can pull it off, it’s amazing. Also, a lot of the horror of the other WoD books works so much better if you can SEE it-which, obviously, isn’t possible. Changeling’s horror is an altogether more cerebral thing.
    I’m ranting a bit, aren’t I? Well, anyway, the Vhurkan consulate gives Changeling:the Lost 5 out of 5 stars. And a good deal of jibneypoints. I’ma agree with the above guys advice of “Go in paranoid and pissed off” and add my own tidbit:
    bring that old iron combat knife your crazy uncle brought home from the war to every game, just in case.

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