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Putting the "contract" in Contract

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  • Putting the "contract" in Contract

    In Arcadia, or really just the powers invested by the wyrd, all contracts are those powers made by oaths that entwine both parties to the point of being innate to each other. With these oaths, we know those of the regalia often have odd clauses to uphold, while the courts have them as long as they pay their respects (hence the give and take section for all courts)

    However, besides the loophole, we don't see the contents of the contracts themselves that define the Contract. While completely understandable due to work count and favoring practicality and ease of gameplay over needless complexity, I would like to know if any of you would like the possibility of a more in depth system for Contracts.

    For example, in the Contract, "Summer's zeal" a critical failure leads to the underdog getting a buff. In my proposition, perhaps this isn't caused by a roll, but by a contract clause. For example

    "The changeling promised Summer it would never allow an enemy to flee, and Summer made it so that all enemies would find it in their hearts the wrath to fight on."

    Not a good write up for the possible contract, but with this, it can be inferred that using the ability causes an internal conflict to well up within enemies trying to flee, but those who hold the clarity to fight will get the buff automatically, as summer is simply inspiring their wrath

    It has flaws I know. The writeup lacks the loophole (since I was just going for the other effect), and would require, well...a lot of work. But It's just for fun. Hope yall like it.

  • #2
    So, here's the main problem: Contracts are "contracts" made through a force of god-magic that can only really be parsed subconsciously in a way that requires several leaps of logic to put into conscious thought. There are no contents to the "contract" behind a Contract, because the contract is the agreement of its underlying forces to produce an effect when called upon. Deriving Contracts from courtly patronage isn't the same thing as the word-binding of the Bargain or an oath of fealty; it's an echo of the patron's power or the tasks the founder performed to forge the court, given to the courtier from a combination of alignment with that power and contemplation of its gifts. If you could get it all in writing, it'd be nonsense or incomplete or both, because it's more intuited than ascertained.

    The operative function of cosmic pledgecraft in Changeling's setting, like the operative function of the Shadow's ecology being a network of oaths and rites and established relationships in Werewolf, is to provide a reason for weird things to be happening in a story. That could be Spring coming late to Toronto because the Winter Court is holding up their end of the Bargain a little too well, it could be a True Fae making a highly public appearance at the turning of the year in Times Square to satisfy a bargain with the Gregorian Calendar, it could be Luna having physical/ephemerally removed her memories of a particular event and secreted it away in a silver mine, it could be any number of other strangenesses.

    In-setting mystics may have a clearer grasp of what connects to what in the whole process, but by and large the point of it is to be the quick explanation for strangeness beyond the player-facing mechanics. "A couple of Fae have a bet going" is all the explanation you need for the circumstances of some story hooks to come into play, and the creation of a court explicitly obfuscates its own particulars to such a degree that people who were there and participating might remember incorrectly why their founding legends talk about stealing the colors from the Autumn leaves or the name they adopted as a changeling appears in the mythology of a narcotics cult three blocks away.

    All of which is to say: It's magic, and while individual bits of magic are demonstrably understandable in the Chronicles of Darkness, entire systems of magic in the same setting are… well, arcane. Deliberately obfuscated. Highly conditional. Context-sensitive. Personal. Holistically understood. If you get it in writing, your impulse should be to be suspicious of the meaning of that writing, because Changeling is one of multiple gamelines in this franchise that emphasizes how reality resists your attempts to comprehensively understand it and might be actively gaslighting you.

    As explanatory flavor text for a Contract, snippets of legend, fable, and parable will generally do more than attempting to pin down in authoritative language why a given Contract works, because those stories put forward the functional rationale for their repetition through the Contract, which is "this is pleasing to the thing that empowers the Contract." The same principle, broadly applied, is why using Court Contracts you're no longer qualified for applies a Glamour surcharge and makes you Notorious with its members, and why Goblin Contracts apply Goblin Debt. it's basic reciprocity; the Wyrd matters more than the words.
    Last edited by Satchel; 01-09-2022, 10:43 PM.


    Resident Lore-Hound
    Currently Consuming: Demon: the Descent 1e

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Satchel View Post
      So, here's the main problem: Contracts are "contracts" made through a force of god-magic that can only really be parsed subconsciously in a way that requires several leaps of logic to put into conscious thought. There are no contents to the "contract" behind a Contract, because the contract is the agreement of its underlying forces to produce an effect when called upon. Deriving Contracts from courtly patronage isn't the same thing as the word-binding of the Bargain or an oath of fealty; it's an echo of the patron's power or the tasks the founder performed to forge the court, given to the courtier from a combination of alignment with that power and contemplation of its gifts. If you could get it all in writing, it'd be nonsense or incomplete or both, because it's more intuited than ascertained.

      The operative function of cosmic pledgecraft in Changeling's setting, like the operative function of the Shadow's ecology being a network of oaths and rites and established relationships in Werewolf, is to provide a reason for weird things to be happening in a story. That could be Spring coming late to Toronto because the Winter Court is holding up their end of the Bargain a little too well, it could be a True Fae making a highly public appearance at the turning of the year in Times Square to satisfy a bargain with the Gregorian Calendar, it could be Luna having physical/ephemerally removed her memories of a particular event and secreted it away in a silver mine, it could be any number of other strangenesses.

      In-setting mystics may have a clearer grasp of what connects to what in the whole process, but by and large the point of it is to be the quick explanation for strangeness beyond the player-facing mechanics. "A couple of Fae have a bet going" is all the explanation you need for the circumstances of some story hooks to come into play, and the creation of a court explicitly obfuscates its own particulars to such a degree that people who were there and participating might remember incorrectly why their founding legends talk about stealing the colors from the Autumn leaves or the name they adopted as a changeling appears in the mythology of a narcotics cult three blocks away.

      All of which is to say: It's magic, and while individual bits of magic are demonstrably understandable in the Chronicles of Darkness, entire systems of magic in the same setting are… well, arcane. Deliberately obfuscated. Highly conditional. Context-sensitive. Personal. Holistically understood. If you get it in writing, your impulse should be to be suspicious of the meaning of that writing, because Changeling is one of multiple gamelines in this franchise that emphasizes how reality resists your attempts to comprehensively understand it and might be actively gaslighting you.

      As explanatory flavor text for a Contract, snippets of legend, fable, and parable will generally do more than attempting to pin down in authoritative language why a given Contract works, because those stories put forward the functional rationale for their repetition through the Contract, which is "this is pleasing to the thing that empowers the Contract." The same principle, broadly applied, is why using Court Contracts you're no longer qualified for applies a Glamour surcharge and makes you Notorious with its members, and why Goblin Contracts apply Goblin Debt. it's basic reciprocity; the Wyrd matters more than the words.
      Ahh I see. Suppose I had a gross misunderstanding with how the Wyrd and Contracts work. May I ask why we have loopholes then? Don't they imply that, for as arcane as they are, that there are some qualities that appear like that of an actual deal?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Primordial newcomer View Post
        Ahh I see. Suppose I had a gross misunderstanding with how the Wyrd and Contracts work. May I ask why we have loopholes then? Don't they imply that, for as arcane as they are, that there are some qualities that appear like that of an actual deal?
        From a thematic perspective, it's because fae magic, which is ever uncertain, always has an exception built into it, which is the same principle as ephemeral beings having bans and banes; just as iron ends all magics born of Arcadia, just as power comes with frailty, every Contract comes with a way to reap its benefits without paying for it in the stuff that sustains the fae.

        Contract Loopholes technically run in the other direction from those other things, but that's because they're an initiatory condition rather than a terminating clause — the Wyrded frame that enshrines the Bargain between a court and its patron evokes the effect of a Contract when supplied with Glamour or when a particular thematically-related action that appeases the patron is performed, which, in the reciprocal language of the Wyrd, is just paying with a defined favor instead of with cash. It's if-then statements enforced through fateful magic.

        It should be understood that calling changeling powers Contracts with Loopholes is just nomenclature playing off of the fact that fae magic is built on magically-enforced agreements with esoteric forces. The inbuilt freebies and exceptions are the main thing distinguishing Contracts and Titles from Numina and Influences or Rotes and Arcana; the other distinction is that they're powers a character can have through their relationship with another party, and in a certain sense that's just as true of Disciplines, Gifts, Arcana, and Haunts, as far as the learning process goes.

        The Wyrd (or fae pledgecraft, at least) is a magical system of reciprocity built to give the Fae a way to seize anything they can take and meaningfully retain it, trickling down to their households and subjects and enemies. It's designed to keep going forever in aggregate, and its concessions to entropy are its concessions to desire — everybody wants something, and nobody can have everything, and if there are ways to exploit the system to get something for cheap then some actors will exploit the system if it's within their power to do so, unless the means of doing so cost something they don't want to give up.

        The trouble being, of course, that this is true at every stage of the process — catches and loopholes and frailties and whatnot represent a Red Queen's Race in the Looking Glass World of Arcadian metaphysics, such that the easiest way to keep your stuff is to become powerful enough to pay the costs of keeping it and/or make the cost of taking it away from you too onerous to bear for anyone likely to want it. The hustler grindset may see its most naked expression in goblin fare, but the Gentry war among themselves for the same basic reason.

        All of which is to say that, aside from the particulars of any hypothetical legalese, Contracts are called Contracts because they're binding agreements that govern the rights and duties between or among their parties, typically involving the exchange of goods, services, money, or a promise of any of those, and formed via the process of offer, acceptance, consideration, and mutual intent to be bound. You could call them Arrangements and it would mean the same basic thing without implying the existence of a written legal instrument — most pledgecraft is oral contract rather than concretely documented stuff.


        Resident Lore-Hound
        Currently Consuming: Demon: the Descent 1e

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        • #5
          If you want to make the Contracts more contract-y you could give some of the contracts something the changelings have to do as a whole.
          Spring King/Queen has to hold parties for each contract, with specific themes or items, during spring or the contracts stop working.
          King of summer might have to hunt an enemy once for all contracts to work.
          Or something that works as story, not as individual thing.
          These things don't have to matter much, with the exception of when the GM decide that something goes wrong.

          It might also be something like, as long as a spring court changeling makes someone happy the contract works.

          If contract all of sudden stops working, then people might start looking into why it stopped and if they can restart the contract, might be a story or campaign.
          For the contracts of Regalia, it might be more important that the contract is that as long as some changeling does a thing that might be natural.
          As long as changelings travel between the hedge and mortal world, the mirror walk works. During Covid all the freeholds decide for a month that traveling the hedge should not be permitted. And so the contract breaks, because no one remembered the rule.


          But these are just ideas I thought about when reading this thread.
          I have not used anything like that in my game.

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          • #6
            My only contribution to this conversation is an old notice that if you wanted to keep contracts feeling like doing they're doing their side of the bargain so long as you don't do anything egregious, you could structure Contract's scene answers of exceptional success, success, and failure to Yes And, Yes, and Yes But, basically say Contracts always work, it's just the question of degree, with exceptional failures being the only No answer provided by them (and not only that, but a No And). You could take that No And one step farther and make them only possible when you've done something to violate the contract.


            Kelly R.S. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
            The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
            Feminine pronouns, please.

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