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  • Changeling Politics

    One thing I have always had a problem with is categorizing changeling politics in the same way that other COD games. It helps me to form political conflicts and story plots when I have a better grasp on the system. For example: Vampire is very neofeudal with factions and individuals fighting over territory and resources in a structured feudal system. Werewolf is based around gangs and their interconnections. Mage feels like University politics between professors. Demon has a very espionage spy feel.

    Changeling is different though. First, at least the seasonal courts have a voluntary relinquishment of power. This makes the intercourt rivalries less intense. Secondly, Changeling has titles that fit in a feudal system without any of the structure that goes along with it. You might have a summer queen but you don't really have feudal dues or territory.

    The closest analogy to the seasonal courts of the fae is probably alcoholics anonymous meetings. This doesnt really produce interesting politics in my mind. Is there another real world analogy for the politics of the courts that you would use?

    Of course one option for politics is to damage the status quo in some way. For example Miami where the summer court refuses to relinquish power. Another is a court system that has banished one court. I ran one campaign where Fall had been exiled and the motley worked to restore them. Having already tried both of these methods I want to try something different though.

    How do you handle fae politics and what good plot hooks do you think the court system naturally produces?

  • #2
    Originally posted by RadioFreeDeath View Post
    Changeling is different though. First, at least the seasonal courts have a voluntary relinquishment of power. This makes the intercourt rivalries less intense.
    Only if your Seasonal Courts judge the seasonal threshold purely by the calendar date. There's a reason regional climate peculiarities were a source of abnormality and conflict in Seasonal freeholds in multiple parts of 1e.

    Secondly, Changeling has titles that fit in a feudal system without any of the structure that goes along with it. You might have a summer queen but you don't really have feudal dues or territory.
    Every changeling in a Court is sworn to its patron directly or by proxy. Getting more out of that patron requires doing more to advance its interests whether you're after internal clout or the supremacy of your bloc. Your relative clout within the system has a direct impact on what your fellow freeholders will agree you can lay claim to.

    The closest analogy to the seasonal courts of the fae is probably alcoholics anonymous meetings. This doesnt really produce interesting politics in my mind. Is there another real world analogy for the politics of the courts that you would use?
    Mercantile politics. Spring works to propagate the things they promised to Spring regardless of whether Winter is still here or Summer is around the corner, and Lords know Autumn doesn't particularly benefit from the activities of the Court of Desire.

    Your Court is your Brand™, and the more you give it and align with it the better off you'll be as far as magical politics go.

    Resident Lore-Hound
    Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e


    • #3
      Something I have seen done in other games is that sometimes the rulers themselves aren’t looking to damage the Freehold, but the lengths they go to can be... damaging. Stuff like taking newly escaped Changelings and brainwashing and or transforming them into new individuals who will keep the Freehold safe. They aren’t hurting already existing Changelings, and are explicitly doing this for their safety, but it’s not easy to say that they’re right for doing this to people who are otherwise unproven in their loyalties.

      Another could be how a Changeling is great in the leadership position and is loved by their court and respected by their peers... but they simply can’t handle the constant stream of work and duties they have on their plate, and they may have some active, problematic hungers that need to be slaked. How do you go about removing someone from the throne for their own sake when they’re doing a great job? And who do you replace them with?

      These are spoilers from an actual play in this forum, so I am avoiding names, and even if this is from 1e it’s still perfectly doable in 2e. Hope it helps answer your question.


      • #4
        Mercantile politics might be the way to look at it! I have run two 1e games and this will be my first 2e game with changeling. I may have to do some historical research on mercantile ventures to make myself some plot ideas.


        • #5
          Im exploring as an idea for a possible game to have the freehold not use any covenant like politics.
          The core of the city are motleys that function as support groups to help changeling integrate and survive and the greater freehold only exost as a support structure to enable that.
          That said aside from no laws and no rulership i dont think thats deviating much from now freehold already work.

          Completed campaign: Scion 2nd Edition. Les Légendes Currently playing: Being a dad for a 2year old daughter anf a 1 year old son.


          • #6
            The hard part of developing political plots is figuring out friction points that are baked into the system. I can then flesh these out Into full blown dilemmas for the players. I think motleys are a lot like support groups for recovering abuse victims. But that tends to minimize conflict which is the source of good stories.


            • #7
              Originally posted by RadioFreeDeath View Post
              The hard part of developing political plots is figuring out friction points that are baked into the system. I can then flesh these out Into full blown dilemmas for the players. I think motleys are a lot like support groups for recovering abuse victims. But that tends to minimize conflict which is the source of good stories.
              Pledge-backed groups come with obligations whose consequences for failure are magically enforced to the letter, is the main point of friction, combined with "changelings struggle to keep their frame of reference accurate to reality despite being very justified in many different flavors of paranoia that can also be all in their heads."

              Having an agreement to do no harm to your fellow freeholders either invites false positives through accidental injury or ramps up ill will when you're not able to directly address personal conflicts that nevertheless keep the charter. Everybody's a bundle of raw nerves and strong feelings that remembers new traumatic triggers as they go on, and being notionally all in it together doesn't make that any easier or less true.

              Resident Lore-Hound
              Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e


              • #8
                I like that description of the freehold. I also totally forgot about pledge obligations. It's kind of like conflicting standards of honor in legend of the five rings with concrete consequences.


                • #9
                  There are also Goblin Queens and other powers of the Hedge and Arcadia who have to be dealt with.

                  Plus there are other court systems, some of which might muscle in on the Seasonal Courts turf or vis versa, and loyalist who can sabotage the freehold from within.

                  A freehold/motley is more then just a support group for survivors, it's much more ambitious then that and a lot more dangerous. The support group angle is just one motivation among many.


                  • #10
                    Just throwing my two cents in here, but I think it also depends a bit on the type of Court System you have in your local area. If your willing to tweak out your own Court ideas, the politics can really fit any boat you want them to.

                    But... for the default, I offer this thought, (while expressing politics as one of the things I struggle with conceptually): The Seasonal Courts may very well vie for power within each of their respective groups - but when it comes to inter-court interactions the idea is to have a sort of balance within the system. I want to say that it's somewhat similar to the concept of separation of power in America - not that one group is a judicial branch, executive branch, and congressional branch, but how each group balances and affects each other and thrives on the relationship between one another.

                    I'd say the politics within the Seasonal Court system might be... indirect and convoluted? You need to oppose your King to take his position, but he is your King and you cannot simply depose him - so you use the other Courts and manipulate things to cause issues for him, and make yourself look good to take his spot, while also trying to avoid running into his own allies that he used to do the same thing you are doing now. You aren't likely to directly go "I hate your guts, oh Summer King", but to work with members of other courts to make that King seem weak and make taking the throne seem necessary.


                    • #11
                      It's worth remembering that while different Courts rotate into power, they all serve functions within the Freehold that need to tended to year-round. Summer Court changelings don't just stop acting in a military capacity, to defend against (or attack) outside threats. (Whether those threats are as grave as the Gentry or as mundane as a mortal gang). All of the Courts are necessary in their own way. Or at the very least, they insist that they are, which is the only thing that matters. They believe that their presence is needed, and that their interests are not frivolous.

                      Meaning while one Court is in power, the other three will be jockeying for support. Trying to convince the ones in power to provide them with resources, cooperation, and a forum to air important announcements or grievances. Summer wants to be able to put up a good defense in case of trouble, and rally "the troops" when needed. Spring doesn't stop hosting parties just because it's deep in Winter, because how else is a Christmas celebration going to be put on? The other Courts aren't in power, so they need to be able to convince those who ARE in power to give them what they need. They can't do it themselves, so they have to work with the reigning Court.

                      It's not unlike how multi-party democracies are supposed to work. Even when one party is the minority, they don't stop wanting to further their agendas. So it requires help from across the aisle. It's from this that Bipartisan (or multi-partisan(?) in the case of democracies with more than two significant parties) legislation happens. (Obviously, whether the parties can get along, or if one of them is entirely obstructionist, is another matter; yes, I am bitter).

                      Conflict, of course, comes from what tactics a Court (or its members) use to curry favor, and from where the interests of one Court conflict with another. Further, certain individuals might use underhanded means to get what they want. Do members of their Court work to expose them, even knowing they work for the same goals? Or will they bite their tongue, trading honor for the chance to see the Court's interests met? What if their complicity is discovered?


                      • #12
                        Yeah, I was going to say "union politics". It's less factionalism and more balancing all the various special interests and making sure everyone is taken care of at the end of the day.

                        The key is seeing that while everyone has different goals, the Freehold-Court-Motley structure means that everyone is, for the most part, working in concert towards the same basic bottom line of surviving Gentry/Huntsman incursion. Sometimes the issue with the company is weak sales figures, so you focus on hiring new salespeople and hitting those quotas. Sometimes the issue is that manufacturing capacity is lacking, so you focus on buying land and building plants. In a Freehold, there isn't that kind of obvious strategic decision-making, but the changing-of-the-guard is fundamentally first and foremost a keep-the-invaders-on-their-toes strategy anyways.

                        So while you're going to have some friction from pulling from overlapping resources, and you might have distrust and even outright competition between Courts and Motleys, it isn't until the Changelings lose faith in the Freehold itself that things really fall apart. Trust in the system is the lynchpin of Changeling politics: everything is low-stakes until the Freehold itself is threatened.

                        And the thing is... in this kind of environment, there isn't really a need for a leader. Mages have their Hierarchs because you need a final arbiter in disputes. Vampires run in a genuinely feudal structure that naturally needs an apex. But for what amounts to a survivor support group, you just need someone to be taking care of the maintenance on a regular basis. So what happens when people aren't stepping up for that responsibility? What happens if the people who do aren't well-suited? What happens when the people who take responsibility also demand authority in return? What if they don't want to relinquish that authority? To quote Loki in Thor: Ragnarok, "you do seem like you're in desperate need of leadership".

                        In a support group, this might be as petty as deciding not to bring refreshments when it's your turn. In a Freehold, it might be as terrible as tipping off a Huntsman. The real currency of a Freehold is trust; if you want politics, kill the supply.

                        I call the Integrity-analogue the "subjective stat".
                        An explanation how to use Social Manuevering.
                        Guanxi Explanations: 1, 2, 3.


                        • #13
                          Whenever I design Changeling Courts and political intrigue, I do so with emphasis on their personal struggles and limitations. By which I mean, my starting assumptions are that very few Changelings escape with legal identities they can use (either because of time dilation, their fetch is using it, or they just don't have the documents on hand), that their struggle with Clarity means they are not well suited for most mundane careers (especially not in leadership positions), and that even veteran changelings, like the monarchs, have poor coping mechanisms and neurosis that impede court business. These kinds of limitations lead to unreliable leadership, an urgency to integrate better into mortal society to obtain more resources for freshly escaped and unbalanced changelings, and interesting moral dilemmas - all of which are good sources of political conflict, whether within a Court or across a Freehold.
                          And, in my opinion, it makes the organizations feel more like changelings, in theme and mood, to have court monarchs (even in Spring) who aren't elite socialites with easy sway among mortals, and who are occasionally crippled by their clarity and frailties.

                          For example, I draft out the various services that might be needed by the worst off changelings: new legal identities, therapy, housing, a job, skills to get a job, a way to lookout for fey incursions, a way to defend against or escape from huntsmen, help dealing with a fetch... And I then decide how each Court tackles one or several of those services - or tries to. And I focus on the edges of society (illegal activity, or stuff that won't check your paperwork too closely), or find places where a lower-level employee can leverage help without having to manipulate the whole organization.
                          Contracts can cover a lot of stuff, but fae magic tends to either be short-lasting or doesn't hold up to too much scrutiny - so I tend to use magic as a "roll for it / have a short scene" type of uncertain resources, rather than something the Freehold can rely on.
                          I also spell out how each Court tends to harvest their Glamour, looking for ways that can weave them in to mortal society or cause political tension.
                          Finally, I look for areas of weakness for each of the monarchs - either mystic frailties, traumas, poor coping skills, a lack of basic skills, or an over-reliance on magic (and therefore too much risky harvesting) - which can make them unreliable and/or spark political conflicts.

                          This approach leads to politics of scarcity that emphasizes the struggle changelings have with balancing their mortal lives. I feel like that struggle should extend all the way up to the leadership and be reflected in the Courts. I've been in games where that wasn't the case, and court politics felt too much like Mage or even Vampire in some places; it didn't jive right for me, so I've personally worked on carving out a niche where changelings operate, based on what they struggle with and what magic they can exploit. Obvious, I know. But it's worked well for me in visualizing a Freehold and generating interesting conflicts - between courts, within courts, with mortals, and with other supernaturals (when I use them).
                          It's a style I might call "Case Management" or "Community Services" politics. ....Which, is my profession, so there's my source of bias, YMMV !

                          If you'd like some concrete examples of how I've used Courts...
                          • I typically organize Spring like a support group; when I do, the Spring Queen is the living embodiment of joyous but dysfunctional. She's frequently paralyzed by her own traumas and neurosis, which makes her completely unreliable to actually do any Court business, but she actually has good coping strategies, and is highly successful at helping others reclaim hope, find "a balance" with clarity, and find a way to be happy. So she's a terrible bureaucrat, and people want to replace her for that reason, but she's super well liked, keeps changelings from going off the deep end, and embodies Spring more than anyone else.
                          • I once had a Summer monarch start a mortal drug gang, then ensorcelled its members to help patrol for fae threats. He was super unpopular for the types of risks that caused - but was beloved by all the changelings he'd saved.
                          • I've also used an Autumn Court which tried to control the Hedgegates, so that any fae threats (or escaping changelings) had to come through a bottleneck to easily watched gates. They do so by trying to shape the hedge (which required a lot of glamour-harvesting, which was not popular) and by nailing gates shut with cold iron, and got very invasive about restricting when and where freehold members could open gates.
                          • In one chronicle, I had a Winter Court which joined smuggling cartels in order to gain fake identities for members of the freehold. There was a lot of suspicion they were privateers, but they provided a necessary and very hard to get resource.
                          Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 10-01-2019, 01:25 PM.

                          Second Chance for

                          A Beautiful Madness


                          • #14
                            Yeah. Changelings basically having no way to legally get a lot of basic ID's and paperwork except through a couple of unlikely/unsavory dumb luck circumstances is pretty key to my understanding of their lives too

                            A god is just a monster you kneel to. - ArcaneArts, Quoting "Fall of Gods"


                            • #15
                              I've scaled-up a lot of the courts for my games from city level to regions, which allows a diversity of politics at the scale of freeholds over the courts. For the big, Lake Michigan to the Mississippi regional courts, the four seasons are represented in different cities, Winter holds Chicago, Spring Milwaukee, Summer St. Louis, Autumn Dubuque - during their rule, Changelings make their way to the different city freehold seats and they frequently compete ritually against each other as city-states but come together when there are larger threats. The Albuquerque/New Mexico courts I've worked on are different - they are regionally unified in a cycle of warfare with two resting/healing/resource-gathering seasons. The Winter war season focuses on threats near the unified Taos-Albuquerque-Las Vegas-Santa Fe-Las Cruces freeholds and the nearby hedge, the Summer war season has the Changelings joining the command of three war captains (caciques) who go on mercenary campaigns across the region. The Spring and Autumn hosts mostly stay behind to guard the resources they cultivate during their quiet seasons between the war times. I haven't really worked at length on my Los Angeles setting yet, and I think that might work a little more traditionally with courts competing against each other during their periods of rule and as subordinate to the seasonal monarchs. I am also trying to run a 10 years later Miami game where Grandfather Thunder wrecked the court system and headed a hobgoblin invasion of Miami, so players will have a chance to either restore the legacies of the seasonal courts or work on new court deals tied specifically to Miami in a post-apocalyptic (for Changelings) world.